Court must determine declarations sought by the Speaker on Motion of No Confidence, says Senior Counsel Astaphan

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JULY 15TH 2013 (CUOPM) – Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Mark Brantley and the other five members on the opposition in the Federal Assembly never complied with the Court Order last April, prominent Dominica-born attorney, Anthony Astaphan has disclosed.

(They) never filed any submissions as required by law; even when we filed our submissions. There was nothing in writing in response,” said Astaphan in an interview on “Issues” with Mr. Clement “Juni” Liburd.

He recalled that in April of 2013, the claimants filed a constitutional motion claiming that it is a constitutional right to file a motion of No Confidence and that a resolution of No Confidence was being infringed by the Speaker.

Lord Peter Gold Smith was retained to represent the Attorney General Hon. Jason Hamilton and Mr. Anthony Astaphan to represent the Speaker of the House, the Hon. Curtis Martin.

“We took the position that it was imperative, especially on behalf of the Speaker and for Mr. Gold Smith, on behalf of the Attorney General, that we should apply to have the matter struck out because it was the position that we had taken on our advice that these were not matters for the Court and as a result of which the Honourable Speaker of the House and the others filed an application for declarations and to strike out the claim filed by the claimants,” said Mr. Astaphan.

He noted that at the first hearing in April, there were some arguments about an injunction which was either discontinued or dismissed.

“Then came the question to deal with the application that we had filed, which were the applications for declarations and to strike out. The lawyers representing the Claimants asked the Judge for directions in order to deal with our Application for Declaration and to Strike Out and as a result of which the judge gave directions for them to serve affidavits in response and to serve their submissions and serve their evidence and to set a date at the request and convenience of the claimants,” recalled Senior Counsel Astaphan, who noted that the Judge was willing to meet on the weekend since it was an issue of importance.

“It is important to note that the Claimants (Brantley and others) never, never, never complied with the Order of the Judge to file affidavit evidence, never filed any submissions as required by law even when we filed our submissions. There was nothing in writing in response,” he disclosed.

“Friday on the 4th of July, “we are being told via a broadcast on WINN FM, that a Notice of Discontinuance was filed. Naturally, the Speaker consults his legal team as the attorney General consulted his legal team and we advised the Honourable Speaker that we can’t allow this to happen, because any other time a resolution is passed and the opposition is unhappy with either the timing, the ruling or even any statement that is made by the Speaker, they are going to keep running to the court and make that part of the whole process.

We decided that we should file an Application to Dismiss the Notice of Discontinuance and because it was imperative that the claim not be discontinued but dismissed, in terms that set out the clear constitutional issues by an Order of the Court.

Because this notice was only filed on the 4th, we could have only responded this week. We could not have done it any earlier. The lawyers representing the Claimants came to court and said ‘look we are going to need time to find a response from the Honourable Mark Brantley and it might be possible and necessary for there to be submissions.

So when the matter came up before the court (last Thursday), they were the ones who asked the judge for time to file the necessary affidavit in response and to prepare submissions, as a result of which the judge said look, ‘if you file some affidavit evidence, the applicants, the Honourable Speaker and the Attorney General would be entitled to file evidence in response. Seeing that you have said that these are matters of importance, the court must be guided by written submissions, so we are going to have to get directions for the hearing by virtue of evidence and submissions,” he stated.

He said the fundamental point is that if the Claimants was as a matter of law concerned about time, then they should never have discontinued the matter because the judge had set aside a date for today, tomorrow and Saturday (for hearing). It is a very experienced judge here in St. Kitts, Justice Errol Thomas, who would have looked at the matter, he would have started his exercises and we might have gotten a judgement in August or even in September.

“And that would have had at least the first judicial bite of the issues to set the stage for what is the true legal position in relation to these issues or the true parliamentary or political situation with these things. Instead the waters have been completely modelled because the Claimants have decided that if they discontinue their case, then that will mean that there is no other issue before the court and therefore the Speaker would have been obliged to make whatever decision he thinks is necessary in relation to these matters.

But the reality is, the matter was before the court, serious allegations have been made, issues of public Importance have been made and the Speaker is insisting that these matters be determined before he rules on these matters to avoid the reoccurrence of what has been happening over the past few weeks,” said Mr. Astaphan.

“Our application to dismiss the Notice of Discontinuance stands and it is that application that the learned Judge gave directions for and it is that application that is going to be heard by the trial judge when the date is set by the court administrator when the new judge comes,” he further explaned.

He added: “Because what is happening now is that the claimants – the six opposition members – want to contest our application to dismiss the Notice of Discontinuation. If the claimants were genuinely concerned about this delay, why did they wait until the 11th and a half hour, four working days before the date of the hearing to file this notice of discontinuance and relying on a letter or statements made by the Prime Minister or the Speaker. The Speaker’s position is very clear.”

“It has been adjourned because the elected members who brought the claim initially want time to find evidence. They say the Honourable Mark Brantley wants to file evidence, they say that submissions are going to be required.

“I fully support Lord Gold Smith’s position on this because this delay had nothing to do with us. If they truly wanted a resolution on this matter, they would have not discontinued this matter,” said Mr. Astaphan.

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