By Loshaun Dixon
The Dominican diplomatic passport of the former Federation’s Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas had been presented to the judge overseeing the case, the question whether or not he will be booted out of Parliament won’t be decided at least until mid-June.
According to the Attorney General the Hon. Vincent Byron Jr. at the second hearing in April a consent order was made by the court and the two parties agreed that within seven days of that last hearing that Dr. Douglas would provide for the court a listing or number of places he had used the passport to travel to and the number of times the diplomatic passport would have been used.
“Dr. Douglas’ diplomatic passport was provided for his Lordship in chambers where he would have made that verification.”
The hearing for Dr. Douglas and the row surrounding his Dominican diplomatic passport has been adjourned until June 15.
The Attorney General the Hon. Vincent Byron Jr. is seeking to have the court determine if the now leader of the opposition is disqualified from parliament for having a diplomatic passport from Dominica.
Counsel for Dr. Douglas Anthony Astaphan SC spoke in court Wednesday and sought to convince Justice Trevor Warde that there ought to be an expert witness on the case.
However, counsel representing the applicants Douglas Mendes QC argued the court is a common forum and there was no need for expert evidence in the case. Mendes added that the court just has to apply the law of St. Kitts and Nevis in the case.
The Attorney General has asked the court to determine court whether Dr. Douglas is in violation of the constitution and that he has by his own act show allegiance – or is under allegiance or obedience to a foreign state.
“Our constitution requires that a member of the parliament cannot be under any adherence or acknowledgement of allegiance or obedience or adherence to a foreign state. We have asked the court with Dr. Douglas using diplomatic passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica if he has breached that constitutional vision.
“By the use of the diplomatic passport is he under acknowledgement of allegiance to the commonwealth of Dominica,” Byron said Wednesday.
Attorney General Byron explained the Wednesday morning proceedings. “This morning the judge heard an application by Dr. Douglas’ council to allow expert evidence to be used in relation to Dominica law.
He then explained the arguments that his counsel was making at the High Court sitting “His lawyers have asked that they should be able to use somebody who is versed in the interpretation of Dominica law to assist the court.
“The argument put forth by my counsel, was that a judge of the high court, is a judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and therefore appointed by the Judicial and Legal Commission and is a judge of all of the states of the Eastern Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica included, and so the judge can be appointed to Dominica just as he can be appointed here in St. Kitts and Nevis. If he sits in Dominica, he would determine what the Dominica law is.”
He indicated that his legal team believes that the interpretation of Dominican law is not necessary. “As our lawyer has put it there is a common forum, a communal forum where all of the states in the Eastern Caribbean have similar judges who interpret the law in each island, and so we think that this is not necessary.”
Astaphan speaking with members of the media explained their side of the arguments. “Well the issue is whether or not under the circumstances under which Dr. Douglas got the passport has led to a disqualification under St. Kitts law.
“Our position is simple, that this is going to require the court to make a determination of Dominica’s law on a number of issues, included citizenship, statutory requirement and obligations and oaths for passports ordinary or otherwise, and that we cannot simply rely on the common law or lawyers merely citing statutes made by a sovereign parliament in St. Kitts, and more particularly, as previously the courts in St. Kitts were obliged to take extraterritorial jurisdiction of laws in the commonwealth, “he said.
He explained the jurisdiction would have included Dominica, but that was repealed. “We are concerned about the effects of that repeal. Does it mean that the judge can no longer merely say that I’m part of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and therefore I can take notice or judicial notice when the statutory authority that gives him that has been repealed? In the final analysis, it is for the judge to decide.”
Astaphan noted that his team was happy with how the entire proceedings unfolded. “This is one of those very rare cases where even if things didn’t go our way we would not be disappointed, because are fully confident with our understanding of what the Dominica law is; the circumstances under which the passport was given and, in fact, essentially the Attorney General’s case was promised initially on citizenship. Which the letter from the Foreign Ministry of Dominica has completely debunked.”