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Null & Void: Increase in Senators Bill

On Thursday, 28th February, 2013, High Court Judge, Justice John Benjamin QC, ruled that the appointment of Mr. Jason Hamilton, as a fourth senator in the National Assembly and also as the Attorney General of the country, were NULL & VOID. Justice Benjamin upheld the argument of Mr. Richards, and Mr. Sam Condor, that the appointments were in contravention of the country’s constitution.

Lawyers for the claimants have also indicated that the much controversial Increase in Senators Bill, by virtue of Thursday’s decision, has also been made null and void.

If there was any doubt in the minds of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, Thursday’s court ruling against the Government has provided another reason why Kittitians and Nevisians have lost all confidence in Dr. Denzil Douglas and his Administration.

While expressing satisfaction with the outcome, Mr. Richards stated that the court has ruled on the side of justice for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. “We felt that the Prime Minister had contravened the constitution by appointing Jason Hamilton as a senator when there was no vacancy for such a position. The court today has said to Prime Minister Douglas that he is not above the law. And just as every ordinary citizen here in the federation in St. Kitts and Nevis, he must be held accountable for his action,” said the popular PAM leader.

Coming out of this court case, we are going to continue to press the Prime Minister to bring the Vote of No Confidence Motion before the parliament and to continue to highlight to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis why there is an urgent need for change to restore accountability, good governance and respect for the law.

One of the lawyers for PAM, Ms. Constance Mitcham said she too agreed with the court’s decision but now she has to carefully read the full judgment because they were only presented with the summary during the announcement of the verdict.

However, Ms. Mitcham who was one of the framers of the constitution back in 1983, said, “I think that this is a lesson that we can all learn from. It is a constitutional matter and it shows that the constitution and the courts work, and work very well. I know that there are some people who like to say that the constitution is flawed, but I never believed it was flawed.  I think it takes good honest people to work the constitution and if they follow it carefully I think it would do well for the people in the end.”

Mitcham also added that the results show that the government was not in tuned with the constitution, “because from the time I looked at what happened in parliament that day (29th January, 2013), as one of the persons who drafted that constitution, I knew immediately that something was wrong. So if anybody thought that there was no case, it’s perhaps because they are not familiar with the constitution.”

The constitution states that:

 “The number of senators shall be three, or such greater number (not exceeding two thirds of the elected Representatives), as may be prescribed by the Parliament. Provided that at any time when a person who is a Senator, holds the Office of Attorney General, the number of Senators shall be increased by one.”

In other words, if one of the three persons (Richard Skerritt, Nigel Carty, Vincent Byron), who are already, and currently are Senators in the parliament, were to be appointed Attorney General, then a fourth Senator could be appointed because a vacancy would have been created by virtue of the fact that one Senator moved on to also serve as Attorney General. However, the Attorney General has to be a lawyer and only Vincent Byron falls within that category.

It is therefore obvious that Mr. Hamilton at the time of his appointment on 29th January, 2013, was not a Senator, thus did not qualify to be appointed in the manner that was done.

In addition, if Mr. Hamilton was wrongfully appointed he therefore had no right to vote in parliament, as he did on Tuesday, 29th January, 2013, to allow for the passage of the Increase in Senators Bill. And if he had no night to vote, therefore his vote cannot count and the Bill was also null and void. It is clear from the judge’s decision that the government did not follow the proper procedures and the Bill that Hamilton helped to pass is declared null and void.

However, it is well known that the Prime Minister acted the way he did, because he wanted the extra vote for the passage of the Increase in Senators Bill, which passed by one vote; that of Mr. Hamilton.

This must be another embarrassment for the government, which has for the past three months been trying to avoid a Motion of No Confidence that was filed by the opposition since early December, 2012.


 

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