In a nutshell, here’s what happened in the latter case.
1. On December 11th, 2012, Opposition Leader Mark Brantley filed a notice to have the Motion debated.
2. On April 3rd, 2013, that’s four months later, with no sign of the Motion being placed on the Order Paper of Parliament, Brantley and his five elected Parliamentary Opposition colleagues commenced a law suit against the Speaker and all of the Government Members of Parliament, claiming essentially the following:
(i) a declaration that the claimants had a Constitutional right to bring, and to move, a Motion of No Confidence;
(ii) a declaration that the Parliament is obliged to debate and decide such a Motion as a matter of urgency and within reasonable time, and the Speaker and the government Members are obliged to schedule the debate accordingly;
(iii) a declaration that the Constitutional rights of the claimants were being violated by the Speaker and/or the other defendants;
(iv) an order directing the Speaker and the other defendants to take appropriate steps to ensure that the Motion was debated by April 9th,2013, or as soon as reasonable thereafter, with no other Parliamentary business to intervene other than the Budget Debate;
(v) such other relief as may be just; and
3. The defendants responded by asking the Court to:
(i) strike out the claim, and to ensure that the claimants never again attempt to invoke the Court’s jurisdiction to compel the Speaker to place any Motion of No Confidence on the Order Paper for debate, because, according to the defendants, the Court had no role or business whatsoever in such matters; and
(ii) remove the names of all of the defendants from the matter, except that of the Speaker.
4. Time overtook the claimants’ request to the Court for the Motion to be debated in Parliament by 9th April, 2013, but they continued to press in the Court of public conscience for the Motion to be debated. However, the Speaker now argued that because the matter was before the Court it could not be debated, an argument which was pursued by the defendants in the Court.
5. After some legal to and fro, the claimants on July 4th, 2013, filed a notice of withdrawal, wholly discontinuing their claim, and also filed a second Motion of No Confidence, and they informed the Speaker accordingly. They wanted to remove any obstacle, real or contrived, and wanted the Parliament’s urgent and undistracted attention brought to the No Confidence matters.
6. The defendants responded by applying to the Court to strike out the claimants’ notice to discontinue the matter. The Speaker’s explanation for this was that there were important legal issues to be fleshed out, and that he wanted to hear what the Court had to say about them. A flimsy, nonsensical, unnecessary, time-wasting ploy. And also a very costly one for the taxpayers, because the defendants filled the Court Room with lawyers.
7. Realizing that there was no desire or intention on the part of the defendants to have the Motion debated, the claimants themselves withdrew their own notice of discontinuance, essentially saying :” Okay, you won’t hear the Motion, Let’s hear what the Court has to say”. And the parties agreed that the original claim by the claimants was revived. So on February 12th, 2014, the Court was not called upon to grant orders contained in the original action by the claimants.
However, in his conclusion on February 12th,2014, (that’s yesterday),Judge Ramdhani said that while the Members of Parliament on the Government side should not have been included in the suit, because there was no evidence that any of them influenced the decision of the Speaker not to schedule the Motion of No Confidence (and he awarded costs to them), he ordered that the suit against the Speaker stands, and stands in relation to all of the relief sought by the claimants in their suit of April 3rd, 2013.
Once again, and inevitably, another Douglas bagman gets thrown under the bus, to face the ridicule and scorn of history.
But the judge, after having assessed and knocked down every legal argument put to him by the defendants, was so confident in his opinion that the claimants’ cause stood on firm Constitutional ground, that he suggested that no time be wasted on coming back to Court with the original, substantive matter.
Here’s what he said:
“The Court was not called on in these applications to grant the substantive orders being sought on the originating motion (by the claimants), but has found it proper to make findings in this matter as they relate to matters of law. Like the Chief Justice of Guyana, the Court also considers that it may be that these rulings will have the effect of rendering it unnecessary for the parties to proceed to a full hearing of the substantive matter”.
And here is what he declared the law to be:
(a) The Constitution is supreme, not the Parliament.
(b) The Court can inquire into the Parliament and its business if there appears to be a threat of a Constitutional violation, and can intervene to remedy such violation. So “while Parliament is the ‘policeman’ of its own procedure, the Courts have a constitutional duty to ensure that this ‘policeman’ does his ‘policing’ without breach of the Constitution”.
(c) The Constitution provides that the voters elect their eleven Representatives to the Parliament, and that it is those eleven Representatives who go on, through the Governor-General, to inform who effectively controls executive power in St. Kitts & Nevis, and who also inform the appointment of the Senators”.
(d) “The majority concept is fundamental to the structure of Government” , and “the immense executive power wielded by the Prime Minister is clearly given to him by the majority of the elected Representatives. The Constitution contemplates and accepts that the people’s mandate given to each of these Representatives includes the power to have a say as to who shall become Prime Minister…”
(e) “In parliamentary systems, the only democratically legitimate institution is Parliament, with Government deriving its authority from the confidence of Parliament, either from parliamentary majorities or from parliamentary tolerance of minority Governments, and only for the time the Legislature is willing to support it( the Government ) between elections…”
(f) “The St. Kitts & Nevis Constitution contains express provisions which effectively means that the majority of elected Representatives are not only instrumental in the choice of Prime Minister, but they, on behalf of the people, are also constitutionally empowered to decide whether he and his Government should continue to be in office for the life of that Parliament”.
(g) It is the elected Representatives who are really the true result of the democratic process. The mandate given to them by the voters includes a right expressly given to them by Section 52(6) of the Constitution to determine whether a Government will continue…The vote of No Confidence ensures that there is a democratic means to remove deadlocks, or the Government”.
(h) The Court is of the view that this is by far the most fundamental rein on executive power that the Constitution has provided. This is the mechanism by which the Constitution ensures that the Executive Government is held accountable to the democratically elected membership of Parliament”.
(i) The elected Representatives have a constitutional right to present a Motion, and to have it debated and voted upon as a matter of urgency.
(i) “A Motion of No Confidence must be accorded priority over other business by being scheduled, debated and voted on within a reasonable time given the program of the Assembly”. And the Constitution does not need to contain an expressed timeline for the debate of a Motion to make it urgent. It is already urgent, and must be so treated.
( j)The Speaker’s argument that the Motion could not be debated because it was before the Court is baseless and of no value. He can solve the whole problem by simply having the Motion heard.
(k)Where the contravention of the Constitution by the Speaker has had a significant effect on the party seeking relief —and who can argue that the 14-month obstruction has not had a significant effect on the six Opposition Representatives?— the Court can do more than just issue a declaration to that effect. It can consider granting an injunction against the Speaker in order “to preserve the sanctity and dignity of the Constitution”.
Do you now see why the judge encouraged them not to come back to Court to hear the substantive matter? It would embarrass the Speaker and the Government even more!
Because the Speaker, by denying the Opposition Representatives their Constitutional right, may be seen as having violated the sanctity and the dignity of the Constitution of the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis.
What about the oath that he took?
From what you’ve read here, can you, in conscience and common sense, say that the Government won the case? Indeed, what Government? Man, the judgment even reinforces the argument that the Government is illegitimate.
Because the voice of the people is the voice of God, and in between elections, the people’s voice is to be heard on a daily basis by their Parliamentary Representatives, and, essentially, by the majority of those Representatives.
And on February 14th,2014, the Court took a stand for the Separation of Powers, a stand for Constitutional Democracy and Justice, and a stand for the people of this country. And save and except for excluding the Government-side Parliamentarians from the suit and giving them costs (because there was no evidence before the Court that would cause it to conclude that persons other than, and in addition to, the Speaker should be held responsible for his actions, although we all know what happens in practice in there), it knocked down every Constitutional ground offered in argument by the Government’s side, and it strongly encouraged the Speaker, for the sake of democracy, not to come back.
You all need to take some time out and read the judgment. There’s more good stuff in it.
Yet with all of that, we’re hearing from Douglas’ spin doctors and mind benders, who don’t want you all to read and to learn things, that the Government won the case.
Dey too lie!