According to Vincent Byron, one of the lawyers for the opposition parliamentarians, the ‘Application for leave for Judicial Review’, means that they would be requesting the Court to review the Constituency Boundaries Report and to substantiate if there is sufficient cause for the Court to order a trial.
“We have to show the Court enough of a case, that there is some substance to what we are challenging, to move the Court to set a date for trial,” said Byron.
Giving his perspective on what the government lawyers would say, Byron believes they would take a stand that says that when the injunction was granted, the parliament had already passed the resolution, that the governor-general had signed the proclamation into law for it to take effect and that it had been gazetted. He explained that such issues would be examined in Thursday’s court appointment.
In what Byron described as “a critical court session”, he indicated there are other associated issues that would be presented.
“There are other issues, some very serious issues, because they go to the heart of our democracy. It’s not just about the boundaries case. It’s the manner in which it was done. Was the parliament properly constituted is an issue,” stated Byron, who indicated that some changes were made to the original court application.
“What I can tell you, now, is that we have amended our initial application, and we added, as it were, additional grounds that we hope our Ladyship would entertain, with all the other things that we said, and that she would vindicate our position, that there should be a stay, that there should be a continuation of the injunction until the cases are heard,” Byron informed.
The appellants, all opposition members and the elected majority of the now dissolved parliament are dissatisfied with the manner in which the boundaries report was passed in the National Assembly.
“The Government, with the Speaker, seemed to be in collusion to frustrate the people’s representatives from debating the matter,” Byron opined, adding, “The whole thing was very clandestine and disappointing from high officials of the Government.”
The elected majority of the parliament had, since the 18th December, written to the prime minister and to the chairman of the Constituency Boundaries Commission indicating a potential legal challenge to the report. The legal representatives requested five days notice should there be a report to be sent to parliament.
“For weeks, they wouldn’t answer. The chairman came to the Commission and got the majority to vote to say that they rejected any notice, that they did not have an obligation to provide notice, so they knew that there was going to be a challenge to the boundaries report, and the way in which it was orchestrated was deliberately done to circumvent access to the Court,” said Byron, who was also a member of the Boundaries Commission.
“The fact that the Government sought this ‘cloak and dagger’ type of approach is really distasteful. I think that citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis who looked at it on the television, heard it on the radio or heard about it have all been disgusted. Any right minded citizen, regardless of what party label you have, should be offended that our parliament should be reduced to something like that.” opined Byron.
“It was very clear that members of the opposition wanted to debate the resolution and were denied the opportunity to debate the resolution – unheard of,” remarked Byron.
According to the parliamentary senator, for two years the government refused to follow the rules, avoiding constitutional provisions that allowed the people, through their elected representatives, to challenge the legitimacy of the prime minister and his government, and he refused with the help of the Speaker.
On Monday, 19th January, a government hired lawyer, Peter Goldsmith, QC, a former attorney general of England, presented a case for the discharge of the injunction.
“The Court was not minded to do so,” said Byron, “and would wait until tomorrow to hear the matter inter-parties, where both sides could present their case.”