Statement by Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, MP

On 21st January 2013 there was delivered to me (by Prime Minister Douglas whilst we were at Cabinet), a letter from the National Executive of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party which called upon me to attend before that body on Thursday, January 24th 2013. This letter was under the hand of the National Secretary of the Party, Mrs. Diana Williams-Humphrey. The said letter ended, rather strangely, but certainly indicatively, by calling on me to attend the meeting to say why disciplinary actions should not be taken against me. Yesterday January 24th 2013 my response to the letter was delivered to the National Secretary.

As a result of the clear indication in the National Secretary’s letter that disciplinary action might be taken against me, which implied that I had already been found guilty of some infraction, I felt that I was left with no alternative but to seek legal advice in this matter. In my written response to the National Secretary, I made it very clear that it is not my desire to take legal action in this matter, given that I am a long standing Member and Chairman of the National Executive of the Labour Party.

The purpose of my letter was to (1) express my complete dissatisfaction and disappointment at what had transpired and (2) give the National Executive an opportunity to set matters right.

My letter indicated that the decision taken at the meeting of January 17th, 2013, the proposed meeting scheduled for January 24th, 2013  and certain actions taken by the National Executive, are all substantively and procedurally defective in law. 

Right to be heard

Based on the legal advice I received it was clear that the National Executive had already found me guilty of some infraction despite the fact that I was never given an opportunity to be heard.I received no notice that a “charge” or “complaint” had been made against me and none was provided to me for me to have an opportunity to answer, and so it was clearly improper and unlawful for the National Executive to have made a pre-determination without first having given me an opportunity to be heard. This is a clear contravention of the elementary rule of natural justice that an accused person must first be given an opportunity to be heard before any determination is made against him. By making what is undoubtedly a pre-determination of the matter in question, the National Executive, with Deputy Chairman Nigel Carty presiding, had in effect rendered the earlier proceedings a mere façade and any attempt to conduct a fair hearing thereafter illusory.

Bias

My letter also made reference to the fact that the initiation of the matter against me was by person or persons who sat as Members of the National Executive. However, the National Executive cannot be both prosecutor and judge.  Based on the legal advice received, an adjudicator cannot act as adjudicator when he has supported the application, complaint or prosecution which comes to be adjudicated. That is a fundamental principle of law.

It is clear that the National Executive consists of persons whose stated positions in the National Assembly were at odds with my position and who have expressly stated that they are in opposition to my views. I have received legal advice that based on the foregoing it must be clear to any reasonable person, that a National Executive so constituted would be unable to consider any charge against me objectively, fairly and dispassionately.

National Executive is not properly constituted

Without accepting the authority of the National Executive to do what it purports to do as set out in Mrs. Diana Williams-Humphrey’s letter,  I also raised an important point, which I have made on many previous occasions, that in any event the National Executive as constituted appears to not be properly and legally constituted. Article XI of the Labour Party’s Constitution sets out the composition of the National Executive but I am aware that there are persons who purport to be on the National Executive who do not possess any constitutional qualifications.  On this ground alone, any findings by the National Executive against me and any further action by the said National Executive consequent upon those findings, would be unlawful.

Resolution

It would appear that the actions of the National Executive have been based on the dubious belief that for a member of the Party to promote the principles, aims and objectives of the Party that he is obliged to adopt and be guided by the positions adopted by other members of the Party. However, they have failed to make the distinction that upholding the principles and beliefs of the Labour Party is not premised upon and automatically achieved by just voting in the same manner as other members of the Party.

 

I also took the opportunity in my letter to point out to members of the National Executive what I consider to be the relevant provisions of the National Assembly (Powers & Privileges) Act, Cap. 2.04 in relation to any attempts by any person to influence me in declaring myself in favour of or against any proposition or matter pending or expected to be brought before the National Assembly.

My letter, which was hand delivered to the National Secretary of the Labour Party and copied to the other Members of the National Executive, including Ms. Sharylle Richardson, Chief Executive Officer of the Labour Party, addresses several problems with the decision of the National Executive against me. I proffered that the numerous breaches of natural justice committed by the National Executive made it  undoubtedly fair, just, equitable and proper in all the circumstances for the National Executive to give me a written undertaking that it would not proceed to convene any meeting in the terms outlined in the National Secretary’s letter, would not take any steps in relation to me in furtherance of the meeting held on 17th January 2013, and would not take nor consider taking any disciplinary action against me. This, to my mind, would have constituted a suitable resolution to this matter and I asked that the said written undertaking be delivered to me on or before 6:00pm Thursday, 24th January, 2013.

I did not receive the written undertaking as requested. Yesterday, Thursday, 24th January, 2013, I attended before the National Executive and on a point of objection, indicated to the presiding chairman, Deputy Chairman Nigel Carty, that I had written a letter which had been hand delivered to the National Secretary and copied to the Chief Executive Officer of the Party. I also emailed a copy of the letter to all the stated members of the National Executive.

I indicated to the Chair that my attendance at the meeting was solely out of mutual respect for my comrades and also since I had not received the undertaking that I had requested in my letter. I further indicated that I was hoping that the National Executive having seen my letter, would have taken the opportunity to set matters right and to resolve this matter in the best traditions of the Party.  I stated that if the National Executive wished to have more time to consider the contents of my letter, I would have no objections to such a request, but that to proceed with the meeting would be farcical, unlawful and improper based on the numerous legal and procedural issues which were raised in my letter.

I concluded by indicating that I would therefore not participate in the meeting for the reasons explained in my letter. Before respectfully departing the meeting, I expressed hope that reasoned judgment would prevail and that Members of the National Executive would NOT proceed with the meeting having regard to the numerous substantive procedural and legal defects which I had brought to their attention.

I must express my disappointment at the continuing harassment and threats that are being directed at me (by a self serving few) all because I took the principled stand of looking out and advocating in the best interest of my constituents and the people of our beloved country. I have been inspired however by the numerous expressions of support and prayers which are being showered on me by people, not just in my constituency, but in the entire country and the wider region as whole. 

I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who have expressed their support and encouragement and I confirm my continued commitment to the people of this country and my faith in Almighty God.

Click link below for related story: PM Douglas Fires Senior Minister Harris

http://miyvue.com/index.php?option=com_content&;view=article&id=11715:pm-douglas-fires-senior-minister-harris&catid=42:rokstories&Itemid=109

 

 

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