THE POO­DLE BITES BACK!

THE BOUND­ARIES COM­MIS­SION CASE

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

In Jan­uary 1992 House Speaker Wil­fred St. Clair Daniel, chair­man of the Con­stituency Bound­aries Com­mis­sion, in­vited Thomas Wal­cott, chair­man of the op­po­si­tion Labour Party, to a meet­ing “for the pur­pose of re­ceiv­ing cer­tain pro­pos­als that a mem­ber de­sires to sub­mit for con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Five days ear­lier the Op­po­si­tion Leader Ju­lian R. Hunte had writ­ten to the prime min­is­ter to say he had re­ceived from an im­pec­ca­ble source in­for­ma­tion that the gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to re­ar­range the is­land’s elec­toral bound­aries so as to guar­an­tee a United Work­ers Party victory in the year’s gen­eral elec­tions.

In his re­ply to the chair­man’s let­ter, the SLP leader drew Daniel’s at­ten­tion to Sec­tion 57 (11) of the Con­sti­tu­tion wherein is stated that “in its ex­er­cise of its func­tions, your com­mis­sion shall not be sub­ject to the di­rec­tion or con­trol of any other per­son or author­ity.”

The sched­uled 4.30 pm meet­ing started an hour late at the par­lia­ment build­ing with Thomas Wal­cott and Mario Michel rep­re­sent­ing the Labour Party. Mean­while, out­side in Con­sti­tu­tion Park, scores of irate and noisy peo­ple in red tee shirts kept the po­lice busy.

Two other meet­ings of the com­mis­sion failed to im­prove Labour’s mood. On Fe­bru­ary 22, Tom Wal­cott wrote to the gover­nor gen­eral the fol­low­ing: “It is clear the meet­ings were con­vened to force pas­sage of a pro­posal by the United Work­ers Party de­signed to change the bound­aries of three con­stituen­cies . . . the spirit and let­ter of the Con­sti­tu­tion were put in jeop­ardy by such a naked act of po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism.”

More­over, Wal­cott lodged a for­mal com­plaint against the chair­man of the com­mis­sion whom the party chair­man claimed had “not only abused the nor­mal con­ven­tions of such meet­ings but also had re­sorted to threat­en­ing Mr. Mario Michel and me with a firearm.”

As for Michel, he told re­porters

that when he re­al­ized the UWP side in­clud­ing Daniel was determined, re­gard­less of op­po­si­tion views, to vote in fa­vor of the pro­posed bound­ary ad­just­ments, he did what he had to do and would “do no less in the fu­ture to stop the rape of the Con­sti­tu­tion by per­sons bent on hav­ing their own way.”

Michel ac­knowl­edged he had turned over a ta­ble while the meet­ing was in progress, at which point, he said, Daniel quickly shoved his hand in his pocket and gripped “some­thing dis­tinctly shaped like a firearm.” He then moved on Michel, “in a man­ner most threat­en­ing.” The po­lice were called in. State­ments were taken. Daniel in­sisted Michel had dis­rupted the meet­ing but re­fused to com­ment on al­le­ga­tions that he had car­ried a shoot­ing iron in his pants or that he had at­tempted to pull it.

The bound­aries re­mained un­changed. How ironic that Guy Joseph should find him­self yes­ter­day be­fore a mag­is­trate, hav­ing charged the Bound­aries Com­mis­sion with un­con­sti­tu­tional be­hav­ior rem­i­nis­cent of ear­lier com­plaints by mem­bers of the now gov­ern­ing St. Labour Party.

Two weeks ago the Southeast Cas­tries MP was granted an in­junc­tion to pre­vent the gover­nor gen­eral from assent­ing to a de­ci­sion by the Labour con­trolled House to in­crease the elec­toral con­stituen­cies from 17 to 21. Yes­ter­day, in the pres­ence of Do­minica’s Tony Astaphan QC, the prime min­is­ter’s at­tor­ney for all rea­sons, the court or­dered that the in­junc­tion ear­lier granted Guy Joseph stay in place un­til the out­come of an­other hear­ing sched­uled for April.

Mean­while, UWP leader Allen Chas­tanet and the com­plainant are bask­ing in the after­glow of what they have de­scribed as a ma­jor victory. Among their com­plaints, a breach of the Con­sti­tu­tion and a flawed process. They also have ques­tions re­lat­ing to the prepa­ra­tion of the com­mis­sion’s re­port.

So far, no ta­bles have been over-turned, no guns drawn!

UWP leader Allen Chas­tanet: Will he fi­nally exit a court­room laugh­ing?

Southeast Cas­tries MP: How far is he pre­pared to go for jus­tice?

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