Lead Counsel – Anthony Astaphan
Photo By Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
October 28, 2009 (CUOPM)
Lead Counsel for the Constituency Boundaries Commission, Mr. Anthony Astaphan is refuting comments by the Political Leader of the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM), Mr. Lindsay Grant that a judge has ordered that the old boundaries must be used in the next general election and that the government of Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has lost its mandate.
Mr. Astaphan denied that the recent ruling by Justice Errol Thomas ordered that the upcoming general elections must be called on what is being described as the old boundaries.
“Absolutely no such order was made at all,” said Mr. Astaphan, when he telephoned the one-hour radio programme “Ask the Prime Minister” hosted by Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas on Tuesday morning.
Mr. Astaphan also refuted a statement made by Mr. Grant at a weekend convention and later contained in a press release that the mandate of Prime Minister Douglas has expired.
“That is the furthest thing from the constitutional truth, because the provisions of the constitution are very clear,” said Mr. Astaphan,
He referred to Section 47 Sub Section 2 of the St. Christopher and Nevis Constitution which states: Subject to Section 3, the Parliament unless dissolved sooner shall continue for five years from the date of the first sitting of the National Assembly after any dissolution and shall then stand dissolved.”
Mr. Astaphan re-emphasised that the dissolution of the Parliament takes place not on the date of a general election but the five year term begins to run from the first sitting of the House after the general election and the dissolution of the house which preceded that general election.
“As a matter of fact and as a matter of constitutional law, it is wrong for Mr. Grant to suggest that the mandate came to an end on the fifth anniversary of the election,” said Mr. Astaphan.
He also pointed to Sub section 5 of Section 47 of the St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution which provides for the Prime Minister to continue in office and to reconvene the National Assembly even after it has been dissolved.
“From a practical working perspective, the Constitution recognises that although the House of Assembly maybe dissolved on the fifth anniversary of the first sitting, that the Executive Branch (Cabinet) of the Government continues to function and that the Constitution expressly recognises the continuation in office of the Prime Minister with his Cabinet, because if the House is to be recalled after the dissolution of the Parliament, the Members of the House, which consist of Members of the Cabinet will attend and you can only be calling the Parliament after the dissolution to discuss matters of an urgent national importance,” explained Mr. Astaphan.
He gave as a working example, the recent situation in Antigua and Barbuda when the Prime Minister Hon, Baldwin Spencer recalled Parliament after it was dissolved to discuss the acquisition of the lands of Mr. Allan Stanford and the takeover of the Bank of Antigua and Barbuda.
“Nobody in their right mind constitutionally or otherwise suggested that on the dissolution of the Parliament in Antigua and Barbuda, that the Government of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer had lost its mandate and should go home or that any act done by the Executive Branch (Cabinet) of the Government following the dissolution of the Antigua and Barbuda Parliament was null and void,” said Mr. Astaphan.
He expressed surprise that Mr. Grant, who is a lawyer and is advised by a battery and a team of lawyers of consistently make false statements as part of his political campaign.
“The Government of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas has not lost its mandate (and) cannot lose its mandate until the people of the Federation decides that the time has come for that to happen. The Government is the constitutional and lawful Government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Come the dissolution of the National Assembly, it will continue to be the lawful and constitutional Government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis after the dissolutionment and continues in office until the holding of constitutional and proper elections held under the law,” said Senior Counsel Astaphan.
“If Mr. Grant and his People’s Action Movement want to continue with this debate, they are wrong. If they want to continue with injunctions to prolong the life of this Government, that’s a matter for them.” said Mr. Astaphan, who added that he was delighted to hear on Monday, the Judge made the statement that he was no longer mindful to grant injunctions in these matters presumably to delay the calling of general elections.
“There can be no loss of mandate and no new mandate until he holding of an election and that date is within the prerogative of the Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kits and Nevis,” said Mr. Astaphan, who with Dr. Henry Browne, Mr. Sylvester Anthony and Mr. Arud Gossai along with Dr. the Hon. Kenny Anthony, as consultant, make up the Government’s Legal Team in the constitutional matters.