By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN): The motion of no confidence case remains in court in St Kitts and Nevis after the High Court ruled on Wednesday that it has jurisdiction in the matter.
These are among the findings of Justice Darshan Ramdhani, who delivered his ruling on an application against a withdrawal of the case.
Both claimants and defendants are claiming victory in the case.
The judge in his 70-page ruling
concluded that the originating motion will be allowed to continue against the first defendant – meaning the Speaker of the House.
The other defendants, the ministers of Cabinet have been removed as parties to the originating motion.
The judge said there was no evidence to show that the prime minister or his ministers have prevented the Speaker from having the motion tabled.
The claimants – the opposition MPs – were told they’ll have to pay costs to the ministers.
The judge said in his ruling that the High Court was not called on in the applications under consideration to grant the substantive orders being sought in the originating motion.
However, Justice Ramdhani said he found it proper to make findings in that matter as they all relate to matters of law.
The lawyer representing the opposition MPs, Vincent Byron, told WINN FM that the claimants were very pleased with the judgment, because the judge has vindicated the rights of the members of the parliament who brought the matter to the court.
“He has said in a nutshell that the Speaker does not have the right to determine whether it is a proper motion of no confidence or not. On the face of it, he should put it on the order paper. Secondly he has said that where there are rights infringed by the elected members of the parliament, that this should be protected by the constitution,” Byron said, adding that he was happy with that ruling because it means that the court is able to intervene.
One of the legal representatives for the defendants, attorney Sylvester Anthony, said the government side prevailed on the specific matter that was before the court.
“The ruling by the judge is a very clear victory for the Speaker and for the defendants,” he told WINN FM.
“What was before the judge was our application to set aside the notice of discontinuance,” he explained.
This means that the case is expected to continue, although no date has been set.
Byron, said his side was “very happy that the judge has said that the members of the elected, the majority in parliament, have the right to have the motion of no confidence heard, and we assume from the judgment that as we move forward he will determine what will be a reasonable time and how it will be enforced”.
In his judgment, Justice RamdHani said, among other things, that the power given to the Speaker under Section 44 (1) of the constitution cannot be read as a power to regulate internal procedure in a manner which breaches the constitution.
He said, too, that he was of the view that the doctrine of separation of powers and the general rule of non-intervention into the affairs of parliament does not help the defendants in this case, as what is at stake is an implied provision of the constitution of St Kitts and Nevis.
In another section of the ruling, the observation was made that the constitution expressly stipulates that if a majority of the elected representatives vote in favour of a motion of no confidence in the government, a prime minister and his government will cease to have the right to govern.
Mentioned also are other provisions including the urgency required to take necessary steps following the vote.
It goes on: “It would therefore make nonsense of these provisions if a majority of members of the elected representatives may have lost confidence in the government, and being ready and willing to vote on such a motion have requested that such a motion be placed on the order paper, but no steps are being taken to have such a motion debated and voted on within a reasonable time as a matter of priority.”
Team Unity leader Timothy Harris believes the ruling makes a key statement in relation to future sessions of parliament.
“In light of the judgment today, there can be no calling and convening of the parliament unless the motion of no confidence is tabled,” he said.
According to Harris, that is the essence of the ruling.
Team Unity is an alliance of three opposition parties which together hold six of the eleven elected seats in the parliament.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network