Registrar of the High Court Janine Harris-Lake
By Clive Bacchus
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- Days after news surfaced that St Kitts and Nevis High Court Registrar Janine Harris-Lake has been asked by the Attorney General’s Chambers to proceed on more than 60 days accrued vacation leave almost immediately, the public faces two contrasting tales.
Is it that the government is concerned about Harris-Lake’s welfare, and feels she needs a much deserved break from her official duties, almost right away? Or is it that Harris-Lake has drawn the ire of government and the accrued leave option proves an attractive mechanism to get her to hand over her keys until December, at least in the first instance?
As this story unfolds in the coming days the truth may draw closer but for now the jury is out. The deputy leader of the opposition People’s Action Movement Eugene Hamilton argued that the letter to the Registrar amounts to disciplinary action.
“…Written on the 17th to tell her go on vacation on the 20th, that is disciplinary action and to tell her to hand over the keys...”
He argued that Section 83 of the St Kitts and Nevis Constitution states that the Registrar can only be disciplined on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission headed by the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
Former government minister Dwyer Astaphan, now a major force in the civic group Operation Rescue that has seemingly devoted itself to seeing the back of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, brought the issue to the public’s attention in an article published on September 20, entitled “30 Years.”
He wrote: “Just two days ago, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mrs Janine Harris-Lake, who happens to be the sister of Dr Timothy Harris, was suddenly and without notice handed a letter instructing her to proceed on Friday, September 20, 2013, to take her 62 days’ leave. That’s tomorrow.”
Astaphan noted, “While the Registrar is paid by the Government and is part of the public service, the post is also a vital one in the judicial system, and its holder has critical responsibilities to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and to the Chief Justice.”
And then he posed questions: “Is this the way the holder of this post, is this the way the judiciary, is treated? Is it an attempt to embarrass the lady or to discipline her? If the latter, did someone forget to read Section 83 of our Constitution? Might the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court be also embarrassed and troubled by this action by the government? Is this evidence of an all out attack on the judicial arm of government?”
There was no official statement from the government as of Sunday and the ruling St Kitts Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) on the matter but SKNLP spokesman Austin Edinborough, commenting on the issue on WINN FM’s Inside the News on Saturday, scoffed at the charge of disciplinary action against the Registrar.
“There is no disciplinary action within the letter that was sent or alleged to have been sent …the Registrar was asked to take leave accrued and that is an administrative matter handled by the country,” said the SKNLP spokesman.
“That has nothing to do with her being terminated or transferred that is leave that she must take at some point,” Edinborough asserted.
WINN’s newsroom confirmed over the weekend that that Registrar had been advised by the Attorney-General’s Chambers to proceed on 64 days vacation leave effective September 20 to December 17, 2013. The Registrar received correspondence on September 17, asking that she put in place arrangements on Wednesday September 18, to bring all outstanding legal matters to the attention of Minister of Justice Patrice Nisbett and all administrative matters to the attention of the permanent secretary of Attorney General Jason Hamilton’s Chambers.
Harris-Lake was also instructed to hand over all department keys in her possession to the permanent secretary.
It is also understood that Harris-Lake was asked to attend a weekend meeting to discuss the controversial issue.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network