By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- The official who has replaced High Court Registrar Janine Harris-Lake in an acting capacity has a clear conflict of interest, according to former St Kitts and Nevis government minister Dwyer Astaphan.
Harris-Lake was this week sent on immediate vacation leave, with no official reason given for that decision by the government.
She was not in court on Tuesday for the start of the Criminal Assizes in Basseterre.
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, an official from the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs told WINN FM that Harris-Lake was asked to proceed on leave, and questions about the matter should be directed to Minister of Justice Patrice Nisbett (who is out of state at the moment).
Astaphan, on his Operation Rescue radio programme on Tuesday, questioned the method in which a replacement had been put in place, and also suggested that there was a clear conflict of interest.
“Because I do not believe Ms Tashma Powell Williams is properly appointed to act,” Astaphan said.
He pointed out that she is “also the secretary to the Constituency Boundaries Commission, (and) provides legal advice to the Public Service Commission.”
The former government minister noted that the PSC is one of the players that might have to deal with the Harris-Lake matter. The Boundaries Commission, meanwhile, is a respondent in a case set to get underway on Friday, and a claimant in an application to strike the same matter.
“This thing has deep and broad implications not just for the people involved, but for good governance for our judicial system,” he argued.
According to Astaphan, “certain individuals want to interfere with the judicial system” a clear reference to the Denzil Douglas administration.
Astaphan is contending that the move against Harris-Lake has left many questions unanswered.
“Has she been singled out for punishment; is the fact that Timothy Harris is her brother relevant to the treatment that she is getting,” Astaphan queried.
Dr Harris, a former senior government minister in the Douglas administration, now has his own People’s Labour Party.
The PLP is one of three opposition parties collaborating in a unity partnership arrangement they hope will defeat the governing Labour Party at elections expected to be held in the near future.
Opposition politicians, including Eugene Hamilton, deputy leader of the People’s Action Movement, are accusing the government of interfering with the judiciary.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network