Basseterre, St Kitts, November 6, 2019 – The appointment of a new chairman of the Constituency Boundaries Commission, the second within one year, could have serious consequences on which boundaries to be used in the next general elections due within a few months.
Leader of the Opposition and National Political Leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), the Right Hon Dr Denzil L Douglas on Tuesday accused the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government of incompetence by dragging its feet in resolving an injunction it sought from the high court when it was in opposition, prior to the February 16, 2015.
Dr Douglas in an invited comment said the appointment of a new Constituency Boundaries chairman has raised eyebrows.
“This is a development that has sparked a number of comments and has raised a number of eyebrows, mainly because the departure of the outgoing chairman comes so very close the end of the term of the Harris coalition government. The departure of the chairman also comes after there has not been any reported sitting of the commission,” said Dr Douglas.
“What then is left for us to wonder, is why this new development suddenly,” said Dr Douglas on his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader” on Kyss 102.5 FM.
He noted that Calvin Pemberton who resigned on October 25, 2019 has been very busy in the construction industry and no time was found to conduct the affairs of the Constituency Boundaries Commission.
Dr Douglas further noted that the appointment is being made this late in what has now become a controversy following public statements by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to review the boundaries.
Dr Douglas is of the view that the controversy increases when there is a significant portion of the electorate who believe that the next election will be called on the boundaries which were established by the Parliament in January 2015, prior to the elections which were held on February 16, 2015.
“We are aware that there was an injunction that was placed on the use of those boundaries, mainly because according to the (Privy Council) Court, the dissolution of the National Assembly did in fact take place before the Boundaries were properly proclaimed, according to the law lords,” said Dr Douglas, who also noted there was an injunction preventing the use of the new boundaries.
Dr Douglas is of the view however that its almost five years since the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity coalition has been in office and to date the government has not made any effort to resolve the issues.
“The matter has not been heard and I do not believe that the government has any credibility if it is to say that it was waiting for the (High) Court to try the matter and as the Court has not tried the matter, the injunction remains and so we have to use the boundaries mainly of 1984 with a minor adjustment in 1989, to have the elections of 2020,” said Dr Douglas.
He pointed out that those boundaries were used in the general elections of 1984, 1989, 1993, 1995, 2000, 2004, 2010 and 2015.
“This government which has been in office for nearly five years (and) which challenged (while in opposition) the Constituency Boundaries Report on the new boundaries in 2015, secured an injunction from the Court so that the matter could be heard in the Court, five years have nearly past and they have done nothing. We (the opposition) cannot bring the matter to the Court for trial. They are the Government today and were in the opposition when they brought the matter to the Court,” Dr Douglas pointed out.
He further questioned whether after five years, the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government will tell the people of this country that they will vote in 2020 on the boundaries of 1984/89 because there was no time over the last five years to have the matters tried in the Court.
“What nonsense is that? We are saying that we will oppose that. As far as we are concerned, unless the Court otherwise declares, the boundaries that will be used in the upcoming elections are the boundaries of 2015, which were not established in time to be used in the 2015 elections as the House was dissolved before the proclamation of the new boundaries and we had to go on the 1984/1989 boundaries,” Dr Douglas told listeners.
Douglas, political leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party accused the Timothy Harris-led coalition of being “incompetent.”
“We have an incompetent government with an incompetent prime minister and attorney general who have sat for five years doing nothing and now want to say that boundaries that we will have for the upcoming elections the 1984/89 boundaries? That is ridiculous. We shall oppose that because we do not believe that that is right. The boundaries need to be changed,” said Dr Douglas, who pointed out that the “demographics in the country have changed dramatically with a redistribution of the population in St Kitts and Nevis.”
During his press conference on Monday, when asked by a reporter for the status of the Court hearing on the injunction, Dr Harris said the Executive Branch cannot direct the Judicial Branch. His answer runs counter to recent matters in which he was successful in getting early hearings on matters before the court and in which he have personal interests.
Submitted by the host, whether there could be nefarious plan by Dr Harris not to call the 2020 elections on the grounds that as the injunction matter is outstanding in the court matter, the elections cannot be held by the constitutional date because he does not know which boundaries to use, Dr Douglas responded: “If Dr Harris does not call the elections by the 16th February 2020, this country will change, the mood will change. He will not be allowed to govern beyond the constitutional date.”