When the matter began on Thursday morning, lawyers for the Sam Condor and Shawn Richards, requested and were granted an amendment to the original Motion that was previously filed. The lawyers have explained that the amendment is to clarify certain matters in their argument.
It was indicated that they had originally acted on the premise that the newly appointed Attorney General, Jason Hamilton was a Public Servant but have now learnt that he is a Minister of Government. They have therefore changed the Motion to properly reflect the status of his appointment.
The lawyers for Condor and Richards further explained that the changes made to the Motion also led to the exclusion of certain sections that related to the Speaker of the Assembly. It was felt that those matters were not necessary at this point though they could be examined for some other period.
The legal team for Condor and Richards is now headed by constitutional lawyer, Douglas Mendez.
Part of the reason for the adjournment is to allow the lawyers for the government to have enough time to study the amendments and prepare accordingly. The respondents were only served with the new documents on Thursday morning.
The High Court in Basseterre was abuzz with activity on Thursday morning as the lawyers for both sides arrived for the hearing under the watchful eyes of small pockets of supporters representing the ruling Labour Party and the opposition People’s Action Movement, PAM. However members of the media were not allowed inside the court, with police authorities indicating that no seats were available. This obviously was not welcome news for the media given the serious nature of the case and the interest of all citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis.
It was on 1st february, 2013, that former Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Political Leader of the governing Labour Party, Mr. Sam Condor, along with the Political Leader of PAM, Mr. Shawn Richards, had filed the necessary papers seeking an injunction on the appointment of the Attorney General, Mr. Jason Hamilton, as a senator.
The two MPs also were asking for a stay on any actions related to the passage of a Bill to increase the number of senators and the ability of the newly appointed Attorney General, to vote of the said piece of legislation. They also challenged the authority of the Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Curtis Martin, to singularly amend the Order Paper of the sitting of parliament, disrupting the debate on the said Increase in Senators Bill, to have Mr. Hamilton sworn in as a senator.
That injunction was not allowed when it came up for hearing on Friday 8th February, 2013, with the judge indicating that the respondents in the matter were not served with notice to be present for the deliberations. With that matter out of the way, what began today was the court case on the substantive matter, which is the applicants’ Constitutional Motion on the matters complained of in their affidavit.
It was the contention of the two MPs that the hurried and unconstitutional installation of the new senator is motivated by bias and/or some other improper motive on the part of those named as defendants in the law suit, namely the Governor General, His Excellency, Sir Edmund Lawrence, Prime Minister, Rt. Hon Dr. Denzil Douglas, Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Curtis Martin, The Attorney General and the Hon. Jason Hamilton.
According to Condor and Richards, the installation in parliament of Mr. Hamilton as a senator and his ability to vote in the Assembly, will be a recipe for havoc and utter confusion in the minds of the electorate and their representatives.
Both the PAM Leader and the Deputy Political Leader of the incumbent Labour Government are firmly of the view that “if the Defendants are not restrained from violating the Constitution or continuing the violation of the Constitution, or the rules of natural justice, and the National Assembly Elections Act, (and) the electoral process, (then) the constitution and our Democracy may be irreparably harmed.”
No one is certain what would be the outcome of the matter but it is one that is being closely watched not only by local political operatives but also legal scholars and practitioners and governments across the Commonwealth of Nations, given the precedence that could be established by the final ruling of the High Court.
However, on the ground in St. Kitts and Nevis, the political implications from this legal ruling are significant. If the court rules in favour of the applicants, Mr. Richards and Mr. Condor, it would mean that the appointment of Mr. Hamilton as a senator, would be null and void and so too perhaps the passage of the Increase in Senators Bill. It would therefore setback the government’s plans to increase the number of unelected senators, from three to six, a 100% increase. Two of those senators would be for the government side while the remaining one is for the opposition.
Additionally, it could also affect the government’s ability to pursue its legislative agenda, including the passage of a budget.
If however, the constitutional Motion is defeated, the government is expected to proceed with some urgency, in the appointment of its two additional senators and the presentation of the budget.
There is also a Motion of No Confidence that was brought by the opposition over two months ago but to date no effort has been made either by the government or the Speaker of the Assembly, to have the matter debated and voted on.