BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 13th March 2020) – Opposition Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) Dr. Denzil Douglas says yesterday’s (Thursday 12th March 2020) ruling by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s Court of Appeal in St. Lucia asking him to vacant his seat- in the Dominican diplomatic passport matter-does not disqualify him from contesting the constituency 6 seat in the upcoming general elections nor does a by-election have to be called within that constituency.
At a live broadcast emergency press conference yesterday, Dr. Douglas continued the party’s call for the government headed by ex-colleague Timothy Harris to ‘ring the bell’ for voting day in light of the fifth year anniversary observed in February this year.
In outlining what the appeal court ruling means, the SKNLP top official told: “I no longer will serve the people of constituency number six in parliament during this term which has already ended. In other words, although I will not sit in the parliament for the next two, three days or weeks, the matter is I however, will contest the next general elections for constituency number six whenever these elections are called. The judgement does not preclude me in any way from seeking re-election by the people of constituency number six.”
According to him, a by-election does not have to be called.
“Let us not be fooled. The government, I believe, will attempt to try this judgement to further delay the call for the general elections by giving you the impression that it has to call a by-election first; absolute nonsense, and so today we call on the expired regime of Timothy Harris to call the general elections now…because your government is expired.”
Speaking to the history of the diplomatic passport issue, Dr. Douglas pointed out that it is based on “the spiteful and the vindictiveness of the Timothy Harris being pursued against me and a former colleague as head of government who in recognizing the service I have provided to the region and holding me in the highest regard did offer me a diplomatic passport when my own government refused to give me a diplomatic passport after serving for almost 20 years as the prime minister and as a member of our parliament after nearly thirty (30) years.”
In February 2019 at the high court, Justice Trevor Ward in his ruling had not questioned Dr. Douglas’ loyalty to the Federation saying in part: “I find that the defendant obtained the diplomatic passport solely as a gesture of political and professional courtesy extended to him in his capacity as former prime minister.”
In that dismissed case brought against Dr. Douglas by the Attorney General Vincent ‘Juicy’ Byron Jr., Justice Ward had also highlighted that “under Dominican law the voluntary act of acquiring and using a diplomatic passport by a non-citizen does not place the holder under an acknowledgment of allegiance, adherence or obedience to Dominica within the meaning of Section 28. 1 (A) as this is not an act that manifests the conscious exercise of the defendant’s will, acknowledging the obligation of fidelity and obedience to the Commonwealth of Dominica.”
Having been “disappointed” in Justice Ward’s decision, Byron moved to have the judgment appealed.
Fast forward to yesterday’s court of appeal ruling which has “surprised” the SKNLP, the judgement handed down by Chief Justice Dame Janice M. Pereira indicated in part: “The cumulative effect of my conclusions is that Dr. Douglas, by his application for, receipt and use of a Dominican diplomatic passport, placed him in clear breach of section 28(1)(a) of the Constitution. As a matter of law, the consequence in the terms of section 33(3)(c) follows. That consequence is that, Dr. Douglas is required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly in Saint Christopher and Nevis.”
Further details of the ruling disclosed: “It is hereby declared that Dr. Douglas, by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to the Commonwealth of Dominica in breach of section 28(1)(a) of the Constitution, is required, pursuant to section 31(3)(c) of the Constitution, to vacate his seat in the National Assembly.”
At the SKNLP’s media session, Dr. Douglas expressed that the party is not in agreement with the judgment but that it accepts it.
“I must let you know we are very surprised and we disagree with the judgement having sat in the court and listened to the questions asked and the answers given by my team. We are really surprised that this judgement has come in the way it has. However, we accept the judgement and we move on definitely to the next level. We accept the judgement given by the appeal judges and so that ends the legal process. We are now in the political process of this matter.”