In an exclusive interview with MiyVue.com, Dr. Harris said members of the Opposition were looking for proper, meaningful and fair consultations with the Commission but, instead, “the Commission had sought to manipulate the electoral boundaries for the benefit of the ruling St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party”.
“We were saying that the Boundaries Commission, as a public body, had a duty to inform us regarding the changes that it was going to propose to the Prime Minister and ultimately the Governor General for providing the basis of a proclamation and boundary changes.
“We are saying that it is not enough for the Commission to ask: ‘What do you think about boundary changes?’ or make recommendations with respect to boundary changes. We are also saying that the obligation was on them as the body responsible to come up at least on this basis of the judgment after a full review of what they think the boundaries should look like and then to get our feedback on that.
“In other words, they had to have developed something…a proposal, rather than leave it for us to say, and then that could have been ignored or not,” he added.
He is of the view that when the Commission met on 9th July 2013 and had decided “they were going with the proposals from Peter Jenkins, they then had an obligation to write to us and say this is what we are proposing, give us your views on that. To have just started and say the Constitution say do this, gave us nothing material on which to consult”.
The Team Unity Leader claimed that o meet the test, the Commission was duty-bound to consult with members of the Opposition.
“They were duty-bound to say this is what we think we will go with, this is what has taken shape in our mind, this is what we see the boundaries looking, what do you say about this picture? It wasn’t for us to create the picture! It was for them to create an impression for us on which we could make a determination. So if they had given that to us, then they had a duty and that is why we are talking about proper and fairness also being added. They had the duty to listen to our views. In other words, fair consultation can’t be a sham! You can’t just say this is the box what do you think of it…but whatever I say you will not contemplate.”
Making reference to the Gaston Browne case of No Confidence against then Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and his United Progressive Party government in Antigua/Barbuda, Harris said it was not only the sharing of adequate information on which a judgment could be made with respect to boundaries, but also the providence of adequate time.
“That is why when people serve a legal on you, they give you X number of days by which to respond. So you are given a reasonable time to go and get the professional advice, if you so require, to be able to respond.
“In the Gaston Browne case, seven days were not a reasonable time for consultation on such a significant matter. When given seven days, I will have to call my constituents for a meeting, where I too will have to give them time for a meeting. So the court ruled that seven days for consultation is not a reasonable time. And in this particular case, Justice Ramdhani said even at the end of that period, I think it was a nine-day lapse, was not a reasonable time. When we go in the UK system people are given all like 13 weeks.”
Emphasising that the nine days given to the Opposition were not enough, Harris said it was not adequate for him to consult with lawyers, his political colleagues and his constituents to see if they have consensus and agreement to some of the factors.
“Consultation,” he added, “must allow the consulter appropriate opportunity to meaningfully digest the material provided and to respond in an intelligent way. And it is for this reason I am in agreement with Justice Ramdhani’s judgment in the case dubbed the ‘Rebuked Proposals’.”
On Thursday, 31st July 2014, Justice Darshan Ramdhani ruled that the Report of the Constituency Boundaries laid before the Federal parliament by Prime Minister Denzil Douglas on 5th September 2013 was ultra vires, null and void and of no effect.