General Elections Still Have Not Been Called
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
October 22, 2009 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas Wednesday accused the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) of further delay tactics to prevent the holding of general elections in the twin-island federation constitutionally due by March next year.
“I think the opposition is trying to create an atmosphere of uncertainty in the country,” said Prime Minister Douglas, minutes after he stunned the nation during a Press Conference that the People’s Action Movement (PAM) had filed a new application in the High Court.
Prime Minister Douglas, flanked by his Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Dr. the Hon. Dennis Merchant, told a news conference that new court papers had just been served on Merchant as well as the Supervisor of Elections, Pastor Leroy Benjamin.
“Where there is uncertainty, there can be confusion. Where there can be confusion, there can be instability, where there is instability, investments can come to a halt. I think this is what PAM is seeking to do,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
Responding to questions from the local media, the St. Kitts and Nevis leader expressed the view that PAM does not want St. Kitts and Nevis “to continue to move forward.”
“PAM believes it is destined to rule this country and has never accepted its defeat by the Labour Party in 1995. They never conceded defeat in 1995 for some reasons given. In 2000, PAM never conceded defeat. In 2004, PAM never conceded defeat and it is now finding a way to explain to its supporters why it will be defeated again when the elections are called,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said that yet another injunction application was filed on Tuesday by opposition legislator Shawn Richards and his unelected leader, PAM leader Lindsay Grant to prevent the Attorney General and the Supervisor of Elections from preparing for general elections, if they were called before the matter of the dual citizenship that is before the Court would have been held.
“We find that this is a bit strange because it is only a few days ago after the handing down of the judgement by Justice Errol Thomas we heard the People’s Action Movement calling for elections to be had.
“Now we find it very strange that injunctions have been filed yesterday and served today against the Supervisor of Elections and the Attorney General advancing to prepare the necessary documents etc for the holding of general elections before matters before the court are heard,” he said.
In seeking to address the reasons behind the new injunction, the Prime Minister reminded reporters and the nation, of the dual citizenship clause in the 1983 Constitution which bars holders of more than one nationality from been elected or nominated to the National Assembly.
In order to avoid a litany of election petitions challenging the eligibility of successful candidates to sit in the House at the end of an election as has happened in Jamaica recently, the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly passed legislation requiring candidates upon nomination to inform the Returning Officer if they held dual citizenship and if so, whether they had renounced such citizenship as required under the Constitution and to provide evidence or proof of renunciation.
But the Opposition has complained that the legislation was aimed at preventing Grant and Richards, both of whom are confessed United States citizens and who have declared publicly that they have renounced their American citizenship, from seeking nomination and election to the Parliament.
“It seems as though that some time ago, the People’s Action Movement did file an application, an injunction in the court to prevent elections from being held until that particular matter they were challenging was heard,” Douglas told reporters.
“My legal department filed in return an application to the court to strike out that injunction which was being requested by People’s Action Movement. In fact on the 29 of September we filed an application to strike out that because we felt that there was really no basis for that application”.
Douglas said that the High Court had a few days ago set October 26 to hear the government’s application to strike out the matter.
The Prime Minister said that another injunction had been filed on July 9 against the Election Supervisor, the Governor General, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, the Attorney General also preventing them from preparing for the elections.
He said that the government appealed against the injunction and the High Court gave its ruling on Monday and that when the judge gave the ruling “it was believed very strongly that those two injunctions would have fallen.
“Definitely Justice Thomas did make a specific order regarding the first injunction… although we believe that the second injunction was also knocked down. Nevertheless it required a specific order by the court to have removed that particular injunction.
“And so we believe that our appeals which were pending to be heard…would have become academic and so I had given instructions to my Attorney General to have the team of lawyers write to the Appeal Court indicating our intention to withdraw those two appeals because we believe that they are no longer relevant given the judgement of Justice Thomas.”
Prime Minister Douglas said the government also felt that the two appeals would have prevented the holding of the general elections, noting that the new application by the opposition is aimed at doing just that.
He said the new application “basically is asking the court for an order to stop both the Attorney General and the Supervisor of Elections from making any preparations for general elections on the present old boundaries…”