Privy Coun­cil over­turns St Kitts and Nevis bound­ary changes ahead of polls

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

St Kitts and Nevis has been thrown into po­lit­i­cal tur­moil fol­low­ing a Bri­tish ju­di­cial de­ci­sion to strike down new elec­toral reg­u­la­tions a few days be­fore the state’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Five Bri­tish jus­tices sit­ting on the ju­di­cial com­mit­tee of the privy coun­cil in Lon­don on Thurs­day over­turned the in­tro­duc­tion of fresh con­stituency bound­aries ahead of the poll Mon­day. The elec­tions will now be held us­ing the old elec­toral bound­aries.

The Labour party gov­ern­ment had in­tro­duced the elec­toral con­stituen­cies by procla­ma­tion on 16 Jan­uary, ex­actly a month be­fore the sched­uled vote. The op­po­si­tion chal­lenge was led by Mark Brant­ley and claimed the procla­ma­tion was not cor­rectly gazetted adding that the new bound­aries would give gov­ern­ment can­di­dates an un­fair ad­van­tage. They launched a legal chal­lenge but lo­cal courts dis­missed their ap­peals.

Lord Gold­smith, the for­mer Labour at­tor­ney gen­eral, who ap­peared for the gov­ern­ment, ar­gued that cor­rect con­sti­tu­tional pro­ce­dures had been fol­lowed and that the PM’s press sec­re­tary had dis­trib­uted copies of the changes to the me­dia.

Part of the case turned on pre­cise tim­ings of what oc­curred on 16 Jan­uary.

The eastern Caribbean court of ap­peal ruled that the procla­ma­tion was made by the gover­nor gen­eral, Sir Ed­mund Lawrence, at 6.20 pm, while an in­junc­tion op­pos­ing the new bound­aries was granted by a lo­cal court only at 7.38 pm and served on the coun­try’s at­tor­ney gen­eral at about 8.20 pm. The procla­ma­tion had been ap­proved by the coun­try’s na­tional as­sem­bly.

Peter Knox QC and Dou­glas Men­des SC, for the op­po­si­tion, al­leged that the process was cal­cu­lated to pre­vent non­govern­ment politi­cians gain­ing ac­cess to the court adding, changes were not made avail­able to the public.

The privy coun­cil rul­ing de­clared: “It is determined and or­dered that the list to be used in the ... elec­tion is and shall be that ex­ist­ing prior to the procla­ma­tion ... pur­port­edly is­sued and pub­lished by the gover­nor gen­eral. Any ef­fect which the said procla­ma­tion would con­tinue oth­er­wise to have, whether in re­la­tion to any other elec­tion or oth­er­wise, is hereby suspended un­til fur­ther or­der.”

Mark Brant­ley

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