It’s been three years since historic National Assembly
By Valencia Grant, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Today, Jan. 16, marks three years since the then-St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party government hastily introduced a proclamation into Parliament and passed a resolution to change electoral constituency boundaries following an “appalling” display in the National Assembly.
Fortuitously, the High Court issued an injunction later that Friday night to prevent those changes from taking place, only to set it aside less than seven days later. The Court of Appeal upheld the court’s finding, but that was overturned just shy of a month later on Feb. 12, 2015, by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, England, which is the final court of appeal for St. Kitts and Nevis.
In Brantley and others (Appellants) v Constituency Boundaries Commission and others (Respondents) (St. Christopher and Nevis), which went before the Privy Council, members of the Team Unity alliance, then on the opposition side, argued, inter alia, that the proclamation made by the governor-general on Jan. 16, 2015 – shortly after the relevant resolution was passed in the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis on that same date – was not gazetted correctly.
The issue of the case before the Privy Council was “whether the Court of Appeal was correct to uphold the discharge of an interim injunction preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries by the Prime Minister of St. Christopher and Nevis.”
On Jan. 16, 2015, an emergency sitting of the National Assembly convened a little after 4 p.m. – with some Opposition members having received notice of it less than 10 minutes before its start time, and others after – and lasted one hour and 40 minutes; the proclamation was made at 6:20 p.m., and the injunction that Team Unity won was granted at 7:38 p.m. and served on the attorney general at approximately 8:20 p.m. Also on that day, the then-prime minister announced at about 6:30 p.m. on the steps of Government Headquarters that he had advised the governor-general to dissolve the Parliament with immediate effect.
Four days before the general elections, the Privy Council declared in an oral decision Feb. 12, 2015, that “it is determined and ordered that the list to be used in the…election is and shall be that existing prior to the proclamation…purportedly issued and published by the governor-general. Any effect which the said proclamation would continue otherwise to have, whether in relation to any other election or otherwise, is hereby suspended until further order.”
When the general elections were held Feb. 16, 2015, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, which had reigned for 20 years, received another stunning upset with its defeat at the ballot box.
Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris has said that “in the face of the sinister, anti-democratic and unconstitutional actions of the former Douglas regime on the evening of Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in which abrupt boundary changes were wrongly imposed on the people in a sham sitting of Parliament just before the Parliament was dissolved, we had to take decisive action to defend the democratic rights of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“It is ironic that Douglas’ own indecent haste to impose new boundaries caused him to dissolve the Parliament before the boundaries proclamation was properly made. In doing so, it was Douglas himself who ensured that the existing boundaries had to be used for the election.
“This decision of the Privy Council – like the decision of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis in the election on Feb. 16, 2015 – is a vindication of the rule of law and constitutional democracy, and a complete rejection of the political immorality which had become commonplace in St. Kitts and Nevis in recent years leading up to the general elections.”
Three years later, Prime Minister Harris is now a Gusi Peace Prize Laureate, having been awarded in Manila, Philippines, on Nov. 23, 2016, for his outstanding statesmanship. The Gusi Peace Prize, which is known as the Award for Great Achievers of the World, is Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.