What is certain however is that the decision to be handed down on Thursday 28th February will be a defining moment in the current political impasse existing in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Thursday is also the deadline for the Government to present the 2013 Budget, which should have been tabled and passed since December, last year. If not passed by Thursday, the Government would have only two more months (March and April) of partial spending power. Following that date and with no budget, no monies could be spent from the treasury.
If the judge finds in favour of the two parliamentarians, (Shawn Richards, the Leader of PAM and Sam Condor, the former Deputy Prime Minister and still Deputy Leader of the ruling Labour Government), then it could impact the recent installation of Mr. Jason Hamilton as a member of parliament. Hamilton was sworn in as a senator on Tuesday 29th January, after being appointed and sworn in on Monday 28th January, as Attorney General.
Additionally, citizens have been wondering if such a decision would also quash the Increase in Senators Legislation that was also passed on 29th January, with Hamilton’s vote in the National Assembly, giving the Government a slim majority to pass the Bill. Therefore a defeat in the court for the Government would also suggest that the additional 2 senators that Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas was hoping to appoint, would also be nullified.
The Prime Minister needs these additional senators and the vote of Mr. Hamilton. Without them, it would be difficult if not impossible to govern.
If the Prime Minister’s Administration loses the case, this could deliver a devastating blow to the agenda of the Prime Minister and his Administration. Dr. Douglas has recently been arguing that he needs to bring the budget to parliament, though the opposition has accused him of being the one who has stalled and refused to have the budget presented, debated and voted on, as was scheduled for Tuesday 11th December, 2012. However, less than 24 hours before the sitting, the Prime Minister announced the cancellation of the meeting. Since then, the Assembly has met but the budget was not tabled. Precedence was given to the Increase in Senators Bill.
It is widely believed that if Justice Benjamin decides in favour of Richards and Condor and if the decision supresses the Increase in Senators Legislation and the appointment of Attorney General Hamilton as a Senator, then the budget would fail to receive the required majority in the Assembly, to be passed. As one politician has put it, a Government without the authority of a budget to collect taxes and spend money, is a “paper government”. This is why victory in the case is so crucial to the government.
In the middle of this is a Motion of No Confidence that is facing the Government and one that is likely to succeed if brought to parliament for debate and vote. This was filed with the Clerk of the Assembly since 7th December, 2012, (more than three months ago), but to date, no effort has been made to have the motion settled. Again there is fear that this is a motion that would automatically bring the current administration to an end, two years before its due date in 2015. This view is influenced by the public expressions from two government back benchers (Sam Condor and Dr. Timothy Harris), who are expected to support the measure, along with four others on the opposition side.
The opposition has been calling for the motion to be heard but the government is of the opinion that the budget must be given priority. The government has not been supported in this view however by all the major non-government organizations in the country. Calls from the opposition have been joined by similar demands from the Bar Association, Chamber of Industry & Commerce, Christian Council, Evangelical Association and the Hotel & Tourism Association.
As the countdown to “D-Day” accelerates, all eyes are therefore on Thursday 28th February, to see what verdict will be returned by Justice Benjamin.