AG’S office seeks High Court relief to declare Douglas, by his own accord, has vacated his National Assembly seat
By Valencia Grant, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The Office of the Attorney General, having considered expert legal advice from senior counsel, gave instructions to institute legal proceedings on the matter of the leader of the Opposition and member of Parliament for Saint Christopher #6, Dr. Denzil Douglas, having held and used a passport issued by a foreign state, and yesterday, Jan. 22, a Fixed Date Claim Form (#8 of 2018) was filed in the High Court Registry at 11:35 a.m.
The application was filed pursuant to Section 36 of the Constitution of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis and to Section 12 of the National Assembly Elections Act (Cap 2.01) as a matter between the Attorney General of St. Christopher and Nevis (the claimant) and Dr. Denzil Douglas (defendant).
Both sections give the High Court jurisdiction to hear and determine questions of membership validity with respect to the National Assembly. Importantly, the sections also give the attorney general the right to apply to the High Court for the determination of such questions.
Moreover, if a person other than the attorney general makes such an application, the sections give the attorney general the right to “intervene” and “appear and be represented in the proceedings.” Both sections state that, in the exercise of his or her functions under these sections, “the attorney general shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
The Fixed Date Claim Form application filed yesterday in the registry seeks the following relief from the High Court as its content is verbatim:
(1) A declaration that since the election to the National Assembly on February 16th, 2015, Dr. Denzil Douglas became disqualified from being elected as a member of the National Assembly and was accordingly required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth of Dominica, under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state, namely the said Commonwealth of Dominica,
(2) A declaration that Dr. Denzil Douglas has vacated his seat in the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis,
(3) An injunction restraining Dr. Denzil Douglas from taking his seat in the National Assembly and from performing his functions as a member thereof,
(4) Costs, and
(5) Such further and/or other relief as this Honourable Court may deem just and expedient.
The relief is being sought on a number of compelling grounds. The Fixed Date Claim Form notes that:
- The Defendant is an elected member of the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis, having been elected to represent the Constituency of St. Christopher #6 in the general election held on February 16th, 2015. The Defendant is a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis.
- On July 30th, 2015, the Defendant was issued a diplomatic passport by the Commonwealth of Dominica, which recorded him as being a citizen of Dominica. The passport is stated to be valid until July 29th, 2020.
- On April 23rd, 2016, the Defendant, Dr. Douglas, left the jurisdiction of St. Kitts and Nevis by air, utilizing the Dominican passport.
- The law of Dominica requires all citizens to swear an oath of allegiance upon being registered as a citizen.
- By the common law of Dominica, a person who possesses and/or travels on a Dominican passport is under acknowledgment of allegiance to Dominica.
- Section 28, subsection (1) of the Constitution of St. Christopher and Nevis and Section 6 of the National Assembly Act both provide that, “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or appointed as a member if he (a) is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
- Section 31, subsection (3) c) of the Constitution provides that, “An elected or appointed member shall also vacate his seat in the Assembly subject to subsection (4), if any other circumstances arise that, if he were not a member, would cause him to be disqualified to be elected or appointed as such by virtue of subsection (1) of section 28 or of any law enacted in pursuance of subsection (2), (3) or (5) of that section.”
- In the premises since the election to the National Assembly, the Defendant, Dr. Denzil Douglas, became disqualified from being elected as a member of the National Assembly and was accordingly required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth of Dominica, under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state, namely the said Commonwealth of Dominica.
- In the further premises, upon his acknowledgment of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Defendant was required to and did in law vacate his seat in the National Assembly.
Last year, speaking in the Honourable House of Assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 14, Attorney General the Honourable Vincent Byron Jr. announced that the government of St. Kitts and Nevis was preparing to go before the court with regard to the foreign diplomatic passport matter embroiling Dr. Denzil Douglas. The attorney general said then “Mr. Speaker, this government is deeply concerned that we should have someone who sits in our Parliament who is in a position to be disqualified.”
Today, speaking during the first sitting of the National Assembly for 2018, Byron said many citizens have “made an outcry along those lines.”