Last Monday’s general election in St Kitts-Nevis was won by the opposition Team Unity which took seven of the 11 seats. The election will go down in history for the manner in which
outgoing Prime Minister Denzil Douglas held out against the opposition forces. First two years ago he refused to debate the no-confidence motion brought against his administration by stalling it with legal proceedings. A second no confidence motion was brought in October last year, following which he advised the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. However, this was after a resolution had already been passed in Parliament for the Governor General to sign a proclamation revising the electoral boundaries.
The new boundaries which were favourable to his administration were delivered on January 16 this year, a month before polling day. However the United Opposition party moved to the court and obtained an interim order restraining the Boundaries Commission, the Supervisor of Elections and the administration from using the recommended boundaries in the election process. However three days later the learned trial judge refused to make the order final on the ground that the Governor General had already accepted the new boundaries by way of proclamation.
The opposition appealed the decision of Justice Carter, but the Court of Appeal at a special sitting on Friday February 6 upheld the trial judge’s decision. The opposition then appealed to the Privy Council, since St Kitts-Nevis has not accepted the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court. It was amazing that within three days the London based Privy Council sat and listened to arguments from distinguished barristers representing the appellants and the government and allowed the appeal, and ruled that the elections must be conducted on the existing boundaries and not the ones recommended by the commission.
The Law Lords have not yet put their findings in writing, but from listening to the arguments via the internet I gather that they were not satisfied that the proclamation signed by the Governor General assenting to the new boundaries had been gazetted. At least the gazette was not produced. Instead an affidavit from the Attorney General was tendered that he had seen the gazette.
Douglas had strong words against the ruling of the Privy Council. He said that the Law Lords used “unfair and unequal boundaries in the election… I disagreed with the interim injunction which is temporary.” He added that the Privy Council is too far away to get the bigger picture in Basseterre, and it failed to take to take into account the democratic will and interests of the people.”
PM Douglas’s Labour Party was in government for four long terms – 20 years – and it never made any effort to remove the Privy Council as the final court and join the CCJ. The Labour Party leader tried all the tricks in the book to remain in power. Reports state that he arranged for hundreds of Kittians from London, New York, St Martin, St Thomas, the British Virgin Islands and other islands to fly in to vote. St Kitts-Nevis does not require residency qualifications to vote at general elections. One is entitled to vote once his or her name appears in the voters list.
The Supervisor of Elections was tardy in announcing the results, prompting St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves to issue a statement condemning Wilgrove George, the Supervisor, for failing in his duties to inform the public of the outcome of the polling. It was not until later Tuesday afternoon that the results were announced, and even then no details were given. Outgoing Prime Minister Douglas then issued a statement congratulating Team
Unity which is headed by Dr Timothy Harris, who was a senior minister in the Douglas administration.
Team Unity comprises three political parties.