PM To Appear Wednesday Morning
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
July 28, 2009 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas will be attending the High Court on Wednesday morning.
This was disclosed by Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Erasmus Williams.
“Prime Minister Douglas will attend the sitting of the High Court at which the People’s Action Movement (PAM) has moved the Court in contempt of order proceedings against his Attorney General, Dr. the Hon. Dennis Merchant and his Parliamentary Representative for Constituency # 8, Hon. Cedric Liburd,” Mr. Williams said.
The Government’s legal team is appearing before Her Ladyship, the Hon. Rita Joseph Olivetti and is confident and steadfast in putting forward their case.
Justice Rita Olivetti said that she had “considered the contempt proceedings and arguments from both sides” and that the application to strike out the contempt of court order was at the discretion of the court.
Lawyer Sylvester Anthony maintained his argument that the Attorney General is protected by Section 3 of the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act and Section 45 of the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis that gives Parliamentarians absolute immunity and that what is debated in Parliament cannot be brought into the court as evidence without written permission from the Speaker of the House.
Lawyer Anthony continued to argue that the Attorney General’s presence in the National Assembly and “the alleged advice or failure to give advice to the Prime Minister” cannot constitute grounds for contempt of court.
“These grounds are not only spurious, they are also very vague,” Anthony said. He said that there is no concrete grounds that the Attorney General “in any specific act at all said a word or any in the National Assembly.”
Lawyer Anthony said that there was no evidential basis for contempt of court against Hon. Dennis Merchant.
“It is improper to allege the serious charge of contempt simply on the basis of the Attorney General’s office,” he said.
The same argument was used in the case against Hon. Cedric Liburd. It was argued by the Respondents that Minister Liburd enjoys the rights and privileges of a Member of Parliament under Section 45 of the Constitution.
Early this morning, the Claimants filed an affidavit requesting “Parliamentary evidence” to “explain the conduct of the Attorney General outside of the National Assembly” saying that it was difficult for the court to deal with contempt proceedings without considering “fresh evidence.”
The Claimant’s argued that as the chief legal advisor to the Government, the Attorney General by an act of omission to advise the Prime Minister against the tabling of the Constituency Boundaries Commission Report in Parliament “aided and abetted” the Prime Minister in violating the court injunction.
Dr. Henry Browne, one of the Respondents argued that he had not seen the affidavit that was filed in the morning and he “would not want to shoot myself in my foot and attempt to run down the road.”
Dr. Browne, a former Clerk of the National Assembly and senator of the lawmaking body, argued passionately in defense of Section 3 of the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act and Section 45 of the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis with respect to his clients.
He also said that no Parliamentary evidence as requested by the claimants can be used in the court as evidence because they hadn’t followed the proper procedure of getting permission from the Speaker of the House.
The 1898 Contempt of Court Act of St. Kitts and Nevis was brought into the debate, with the Learned Judge saying that a distinction .in the procedures must be drawn with respect to section 4 which refers to criminal contempt and section 10 which refers to civil contempt.