It is now being stated that the Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, will address the nation Thursday night, to provide his government’s perspective on the matter. It is also being said by some sources in the government that the Prime Minister is seriously considering asking one of his current Senators, (Richard Skerritt, Nigel Carty), to resign, so that Hamilton could later today be appointed in their place. He would also thereafter be appointed Attorney General.
Then, similar to what happened in March 2010, shortly thereafter, the Senator who resigned, would again be re-appointed back to the parliament, as a Senator.
It is also being stated that Government have already indicated their intention to appeal Thursday’s High Court decision and Prime Minister Douglas is expected to confirm this when he addresses the nation Thursday night.
Officials of the Government have reacted to the decision with some degree of surprise, said a release. They claim that “The method used to appoint Mr. Hamilton as Attorney General was the identical method used to appoint former Attorneys General Delano Bart and Dennis Merchant.”
They added that “in both of those instances, Sam Condor was the Leader of Government Business; the same individual who is today, party to a coalition with the opposition, challenging the most recent AG’s appointment.” Condor however was fired by the Prime Minister as Leader of Government Business and he later resigned his post as Deputy Prime Minister and a minister in the Cabinet with other responsibilities. He accused the Prime Minister of losing his way and not acting in the best interest of accountability, transparency and democracy.
On Thursday morning February 28th, Acting High Court Judge His Lordship John Benjamin, Q.C, delivered his decision in the case brought by Shawn Richards and Sam Condor challenging the constitutionality of the appointments last month of Mr. Hamilton.
Justice Benjamin granted all the final declarations sought for by Mr. Richards and Mr. Condor. However it was learnt late Thursday afternoon that the court made a typographical error in the judgment document, and listed two items twice, and neglecting to include the matter pertaining to the nullification of the Increase in Senators Bill. A lawyer for Richards indicated that they contacted the court and alerted them accordingly and an amended decision is soon to be provided.
Below however, is the first version of the declarations, laid out on page 2 and declared on page 25 of the twenty-six page (26) judgment, in identical terms, as follows:
1. A Declaration that the appointment of a 4th Senator by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister or whosoever is in contravention of the provisions of Section 26 (1) and (2) of the Constitution and as such, the said appointment is null, void and of no effect.
2. A Declaration that the appointment of the 4th named Respondent as a Senator is contrary to Section 26(1) and (2) of the Constitution and is invalid null and void and of no effect.
3. A Declaration that the appointment of the 4ft named Respondent as Attorney General is contrary to Section 52$) of the Constitution and is invalid, null and void and of no effect.
With respect to the remaining three declarations sought by Condor and Richards, Justice Benjamin stated in paragraph 40 (page 26) of his decision that, “I should note for the record that in closing submissions, Senior Counsel for the Claimants abandoned the other Declarations and Orders initially sought.”
Those “other Declarations and Orders initially sought” included:
4. Declaration that the Senators (Increase of Number) Act 2013 is unconstitutional and/or invalid as being in contravention of Sections 26 and 41 of the Constitution.
5. An Order for Certiorari quashing the act of the 1st Defendant in purporting to appoint the 4th Defendant as a 4th Senator, contrary to and in contravention of the Constitution.
6. An Order restraining the Defendants by themselves, their servants, and/or agents or Persons subject to their control, authority or direction from acting or taking any action or doing any act of appointment or otherwise pursuant to the Senators (Increase of Number) Act 2013.
The five defendants were the Sir Edmund Lawrence as Governor-General, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil L. Douglas as Prime Minister, the Honourable Curtis Martin as Speaker of the National Assembly, the Honourable Jason Hamilton in his personal capacity and also as Attorney General.
Electronic copy of the Judgment:
Section 26 of the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis reads:
“26. – (1) The National Assembly shall consist of-
a) such number of Representatives as corresponds with the number or constituencies for the time being established in accordance with section 50; and
b) such number of Senators as is specified in subsection (2), who shall be appointed in accordance with section 30.
(2) The number of Senators shall be three or such greater number (not exceeding two-thirds of the number of Representatives) as may be prescribed by 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.
(3) If a person who is not a member of the National Assembly is elected to be Speaker they shall be a member of the Assembly.
(4) At any time when the office of Attorney-General is a public office the Attorney-General shall, by virtue of holding or acting in that office, be a member of the National Assembly.
(5) Any person who sits or votes in the National Assembly knowing or having reasonable grounds for knowing that he is not entitled to do so shall be guilty of a criminal offence and liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, or such other sum as may be prescribed by Parliament, for each day on which he so sits or votes in the Assembly.
(6) Any prosecution for an offence under subsection (5) shall be instituted in the High Court and shall not be so instituted except by the Director of Public Prosecutions.”