Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Breaking news 6PM SGP time Samak Disqualified by Constitutional Court

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PM loses his post and his cabinet will function as a caretaker cabinet after the Constitution Court disqualified PM after finding him violating the charter.

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4.30 pm: Urgent: The court disqualifies Samak.

Six judges considered Samak to be the "employee" while three others considered Samak a business partner of the studio, a constitutional offence in both cases.

The court said evidence presented by Samak that he was only given transport fees for hosting the show "contradicted" payment evidence by the studio, Face Media.

The court went strong on the principles laid down by the Constitution against conflicts of interests. The judges pointed out that using definitions of "employ", "employer" and "employee" from different laws are not enough to tell whether the will of the Constitution has been violated.

4 pm: The judges have taken turn in reading the plaintiffs' and defence arguments. So far it sounds a simple legal battle. Samak's accusers said he was "employed" by a studio to host the TV cooking show, whereas Samak's defence insisted he was urged to help with the programme and by no means was its "employee". The court's verdict, surely , will have to touch upon definitions of "employ" , "employer" and "employee" and interpret payments made to Samak.

3.40 pm: The Constitution Court has begun reading the verdict now. A long period of time is expected to be spent on reading the case's backgrounds. Cameramen will be given five minutes and will be then asked to leave the courtroom, which is totally packed.

Samak is represented in the courtroom by his lawyer Thana Benjathikul.

3.15 pm: Where is Samak? Nobody knows. He was said to have boarded his flight back from Udon Thani after the mobile Cabinet meeting but as of now no-one can confirm where he has landed. Samak's close aides who answered reporters' phone calls would only say the prime minister is now in Bangkok. However, he is not expected to appear at the Constitution Court.

2.30 pm: It has been announced that the court is postponing reading the verdict to 3.30 pm.

2.15 pm: Some food for thought in the meantime: If Samak decides to bite the bullet and defy the Constitution Court, it doesn't mean he can get away with it just like that. Firstly, a caretaker prime minister and caretaker Cabinet will find it totally difficult to go on. Seconly, Samak has another court case coming _ the appeal against a defamation conviction. If the Appeals Court upholds the lower court, he will be all but doomed because a chance to overturn it at the Supreme Court is very low.

We have been reminded that there is also a fourth scenario _ Samak being re-elected by Parliament because the charter seemingly doesn't prevent that if he loses today's case. Again, he will face the Appeals Court timebomb in the defamation case nonetheless.

2 pm: The court seems to be delaying its verdict. We are not sure by how long.

1.50 pm: One weird theory has emerged. What if Samak continues serving as a caretaker prime minister nonchalantly? Some legal experts _ who are pro-PPP of course _ point out that the 30-day timeframe to elect a prime minister is applied for the first parliamentary convention (after an election) only.

So, basically there are three scenarios at the moment in the event of a guitly verdict _ Samak serving as caretaker PM, Chat Thai leader Banharn Silapa-archa replacing him, and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva performing a political daylight robbery by stealing enough parliamentary support for his rise to premiership.

12.55 pm: Samak departs the Udon Thani Airport after telling his mobile Cabinet not to worry about him. Things are tense in Bangkok, with virtually everyone awaiting the court verdict and speculating what will happen next.

10.15 am : Chart Thai deputy leader Somsak Prissanananthakul says Party leader Banharn Silapa-archa might emerge as the next prime minister if incumbent Samak Sundaravej was disqualified by the Constitution Court this afternoon.

Should Samak be removed from office by the judicial review, the Chart Thai Party would convene an urgent meeting to assess the situation which might lead to the nomination of Banharn, Somsak says.

10 am : Constitution Court judge Charan Pakdeethanakul says that the verdict on the prime minister's qualifications was ready for release this afternoon as scheduled.

8.30 am : Samak and his cabinet members start their weekly cabinet meeting in Prachak Silapakhom army camp.

6 am : Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej visits a fresh market in Udon Thani province before chairing a mobile cabinet meeting in Muang district. He appears in good mood while shopping in a fresh market.

The prime minister has his breakfast at a pork soup shop at 6 am and visits the Udon Thani Municipality Market. He is smiling while shopping.

He smiles back at a reporter without saying anything when asked whether he would accept the ruling of the Constitution Court in a disqualification case against him in the afternoon.

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