St.Kitts-Nevis Opposition leader ordered to vacate seat in National Assembly

Denzil Douglas

BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Leader of the Opposition St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) Dr Denzil Douglas has been ordered by the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court to vacate his seat immediately because he holds a Dominican diplomatic passport.

And while saying that he was taken aback by the judgement, Douglas, the Parliamentary Representative for Constituency Number Six, said he would be contesting the next elections.

In the ruling handed down last week, the Court of Appeal said the former prime minister should not sit in the National Assembly since the Constitution states that a person shall not be qualified to be elected if he is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.

“Dr Douglas, by his application for, receipt and use of a Dominican diplomatic passport, placed him in clear breach of Section 28(1)(a) of the Constitution. As a matter of law, the consequence in the terms of Section 33(3)(c) follows. That consequence is that Dr Douglas is required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly in Saint Christopher and Nevis,” the court judgment stated.

“It is hereby declared that Dr Douglas, by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to the Commonwealth of Dominica in breach of Section 28(1)(a) of the Constitution, is required, pursuant to Section 31(3)(c) of the Constitution, to vacate his seat in the National Assembly.”

Douglas was issued with a Dominica diplomatic passport on July 30, 2015. It expires on July 29, 2020.

At a SKNLP news conference held shortly after the ruling, the former prime minister said he had no intention of pursuing the matter further.

“I must let you know that we are very surprised and we disagree with the judgement. Having sat in the court and listened to the questions asked and the answers given by myself and my team, we are really surprised that this

judgement has come in the way it has. However, we accept the judgement and we move on definitely to the next level,” he said.

“We respect the judgement given by the appeal judges and so that ends the legal process. We are now in the political process of this matter.”

The 67-year-old Douglas said while he would no longer will serve the people of Constituency Number Six in the Parliament during this term, which is already ended.

“In other words, although I will not sit in the Parliament for the next two, three days or weeks. The matter is, I, however, will contest the next elections for Constituency Number Six whenever those elections are called.

“The judgement does not preclude me in any way from seeking re-election by the people of Constituency Number Six. My own colleagues, only a moment ago, have all endorsed what has been the position of the people of Constituency Number Six – that Denzil Llewellyn Douglas will stand again as the candidate for Constituency Number Six, when the elections are called, for the St Kitts Nevis Labour Party,” he said.

Douglas, who was Prime Minister of the twin-island federation from 1995 to 2015 when his SKNLP lost the elections, added that he expected the ruling Team Unity coalition to try to use his removal from the Parliament to further delay the call for a general election by giving the impression that it has to call a by-election first.

“Absolute nonsense!” he said. “So, today we call on the expired government of Timothy Harris: call the general elections now, do not delay one minute more because your government has expired.” The next election in St Kitts and Nevis is constitutionally due by August 12 this year.