By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- What does 'consultation' mean? That question was argued on Thursday as the constituency boundaries changes case in St Kitts and Nevis unfolded in the Basseterre High Court.
The legal representative for opposition MPs, Douglas Mendes SC, argued that the Constituency Boundaries Commission’s report proposing boundary changes is flawed because there was not proper consultation on the changes.
The Commission’s attorney, senior counsel Anthony Astaphan, told WINN FM that the opposition has no case.
"The process was fair, in that the claimants had sufficient information to participate...in the process, and therefore they should not be heard now to complain that the process isn't fair, because they did not participate," Astaphan told WINN FM.
"It's a simple process, and they are taking a very... mechanical approach, or formalistic approach as to how it should be done. We're saying the process is far more flexible, and it's really a judgment call for the judge to decide," he said.
"The judge is listening he's paying very clear attention. He's asking very pointed questions on all sides, and there's no question he's following the case very well, but it's for him to decide in the final analysis whether there must be a rigid process, or whether the process must be flexible."
Astaphan asserted that there are no rules for the Commission about how the consultation should be conducted.
"There're no rules, that's the whole point, so you have to create them as we go along, so long as they're fair."
However one of the claimants, opposition coalition Team Unity leader Timothy Harris, has been expressing confidence that their case is a solid one.
"By and large, we are contending that what was done in terms of the process leading up to the report was an unfairness, unjustified, and that our rights had been infringed," he said on Thursday.
"We believe in the power of the arguments that were presented and later you'll get an opportunity to hear senior counsel respond and rebut some of the non-points, in my view as a layman, that have been put forward before the court."
He addressed the respondents' arguments that suggest that the opposition MPs on the Commission failed to grasp opportunities that could have lead to consultation.
"From the very beginning we indicated what our views were. We asked the Commission for information pertinent to the judgments which later the Commission would make. The Commission did not provide those to us, and on more than one occasion we had written to the Commission and... we took the opportunity when the time was ripe to have the court intervene with respect to the matter," Harris explained.
"I believe that those posturings that are being put forward really have no legal basis and they will not weigh the court either way. I believe the substance is found in the argument put forward by our counsel and I heard nothing in the response from some three senior lawyers representing the government side... that in any way will shake the powerful arguments that were advanced earlier. In the end it's a matter for the court, but we believe that justice is on our side."
Mendes in his presentation on Thursday afternoon made reference to a similar case in Antigua and Barbuda on the question of consultation won by the opposition Antigua Labour Party.
The Constituency Boundaries Commission’s report was passed in Parliament but not signed off on by the Governor General because of a court injunction obtained by the opposition.
Mendes made it clear that his clients were challenging the report of the Commission, arguing that it is flawed.
The Commission’s lawyers reject that argument.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network