Douglas brushes aside London Privy Council ruling; St Kitts opposition pleased

denzil-douglas-vance-amory

Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas (left) and Premier Vance Amory (right).

Peter Richards

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Friday February 13, 2015, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas Thursday brushed aside the ruling of the London-based Privy Council that the February 16 general elections here should be contested on the old voters list and the existing constituency boundaries.

“The English law lords have ordered the Electoral Commission to use the unfair and unequal boundaries in the election, Douglas said in a radio and television broadcast, adding “while I profoundly disagree with this interim injunction, we have to remember that it is only a temporary measure and the issue of permanently establishing fair boundaries will be decided on a future date’.

But Premier Vance Amory of the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) welcomed the ruling, describing it as a “red letter day” for the twin island Federation.

“A red letter day for justice in our country and we the people of St. Kitts and Nevis can show appreciation for the courage displayed by the court in rectifying the grave error and injustice which, we believe, was perpetrated on us by the Labour/NRP Government on 16th January, 2015,” said Amory, whose Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) is part of the opposition grouping “Team Unity” challenging the ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP).

The opposition grouping also includes the main opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) and the People’s Labour Party (PLP), while the CCM’s challenge in Nevis will come from the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) that signed a cooperation agreement with the SKNLP on Thursday.

In his address, Prime Minister Douglas, 62, who is seeking to become the first Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leader to win five consecutive general elections, said that his administration has prepared the country “so that it has enough time to properly consider the matter and you the people of St. Kitts and Nevis can exercise your constitutional rights in the ballot box on Monday.

“It is time for the people to show PAM that their legal tricks will not work. Labour supporters and the inspirational SKNY movement will all be at the polling stations on Monday and win this election for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“We, the Labour party will not allow PAM to violate democracy we will ensure that the public will is expressed through the ballot box,” Prime Minister Douglas said, adding that voters will be given an opportunity on Monday to have their “say on the future direction of the country”.

He said they will also have a chance to pick their representative and decide also which party is “best for your children and their future.

“I am confident that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis will decide in the ballot box that Labour is the only party with the policies and record to continue the progress and growth for which St. Kitts and Nevis is now known.

“It is clear that the Privy Council has failed to take into account the democratic will and the sentiments of the people. We in Labour feel there is a real gulf of misunderstanding between what has gone on in a court room in London and the mood of the ordinary man and woman on the streets here in St Kitts-Nevis.”

The Privy Council, the twin Federation’s highest court, Thursday said it would later provide a written judgement to all parties regarding its ruling.

The Privy Council was asked to rule on whether or not the Easter Caribbean Court of Appeal was correct to uphold the discharge of an interim injunction preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries ahead of the February 16 general elections.

In its ruling, the Privy Council said after consideration of the appeal made by the Eastern Caribbean Court, it will allow the appeal filed by the opposition legislators.

“The Order made by Madam Justice Carter (High Court judge) on January 27, 2015 and the Court of Appeal on the 5th February 2015, be set aside and the interim injunction granted by Madam Carter on the 16th of January 2015 be restored”.

The Privy Council noted that both parties had in their agreement an undertaking “agreed to use for the purposes of the forthcoming general election due to take place on Monday 16th February whatever list the Privy Council may determine as the appropriate list, it is determined and ordered that firstly, the list to be used in the said election, is and shall be that existing prior to and apart from the proclamation bearing the reference number two of 2015 purportedly issued and published by the Governor General….bearing the date January 16, 2015.

The Privy Council said any effect that the said proclamation “would continue otherwise to have whether in relation to any other election or otherwise is hereby suspended until further order”.

It said that “all further questions regarding the said proclamation or otherwise and all questions of costs be reserved”.

The Privy Council ruling Thursday came after it heard submissions from attorneys representing four opposition politicians and those representing the Constituency Boundaries Commission, Prime Minister Douglas and the island’s attorney general.

Prime Minister Douglas told the nation that the opposition has shown a love for obscuring the legal proceedings and would no doubt “challenge the outcome of the election anyway.

“Fellow citizens, residents, the SKNLP has won four times on these boundaries. And we shall win with them again. Let us go forward then. Undeterred and determined to protect all that together we have so impressively won,” he added.

But Amory said the Privy Council “has done our nation a great service by setting aside the ruling of Justice Carter and that of the OECS Court of Appeal.

“It is a great day for us and for Democracy, justice has prevailed. It is a triumph for our law-abiding values; values that are precious and priceless. It is a vindication of everything that is right and just and perseverance of those who sought that justice by appealing to the court to rectify what transpired in St. Kitts, in the parliament on the 16th of January 2015.”

He said he believed the core of the Court’s decision, was the exercise to protect democracy and to preserve the respect for the Constitution and the rule of law in the country.

“I believe that this decision represents a tremendous victory, for the basic constitutional rights of every citizen of our country. We can justifiably be proud on this day, we have managed to see our country saved from what has been termed creeping dictatorship as we continue our journey of rescuing St. Kitts and Nevis from that process.”

Amory said that the ruling by the Privy Council belongs to the entire nation and as a result “we owe it to ourselves, therefore, to preserve, protect our constitution and our other institutions, to ensure that there is no deterioration in the future.

“The judges of the Privy Council have ruled. It is now our turn to safeguard this decision from the “forces of evil” and those who conspire to deny our democracy,” he added.

 Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)