Speaker Martin: Discontinuance not the end of the matter, instructs lawyers to attend hearing

Speaker of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly, the Hon. Curtis Martin

Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 10th 2013 (CUOPM) – Speaker of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly the Hon. Curtis Martin told parliamentarians and the nation Monday that he has instructed his lawyers to attend the high Court hearing this week on a Motion of No Confidence filed by members of the opposition in the lawmaking body.

He said despite the Notice of Discontinuance filed in the High Court last week, his Counsel, has advised that that is not the end of the matter.

“First of all, there is still the matter of costs which will have to be determined in relation to the claim which is being discontinued. But even more importantly, there is the matter of the application brought on my behalf which sought certain declarations from the court in relation to the powers of the Speaker,” he said in a statement at the start of Monday’s sitting.

He advised that in light of the position advanced by the Attorneys on his behalf, it is his considered view, that once the Honourable Members who brought the case became seized of these issues of great public importance, they had a duty to prosecute the claim.

“By discontinuing the claim before a proper determination by the High Court, and by doing so at the very last minute, they may have inflicted a grave injustice on this National Assembly and the people of this Federation. By their actions, this National Assembly and the people of the Federation may have been denied the opportunity of having these issues determined particularly by the High Court, especially given that a number of Non-Governmental Organizations, including the Bar Association, had criticized, if not condemned. The Office of the Speaker, as well as the National Assembly. These issues should not be left hanging,” said Speaker Martin.

He prefaced his decision by noting that on the 3rd day of April, 2013 he was joined as a Defendant in a claim filed by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, together with Members for St. Christopher 8, 5, 10, 7 and 3.

“In my view, this claim which was filed against the Speaker of the National Assembly threatened both the independence and autonomy of the Speaker, and by extension, affected the rights and privileges of all members,” said the Speaker, pointing out that while the public perception may be that the claim relates to a motion of no confidence in the government of the day, in reality, the claim seeks to surrender the independence, authority and autonomy of the Speaker of the National Assembly in the conduct of the affairs of the National Assembly, to be exercised instead by a Judge of the High Court.

“This is a threat which if it succeeds, will have serious and long lasting consequences. For this reason, I retained legal counsel and gave very firm instructions that this matter be defended with the utmost vigour,” said Mr. Martin.

He said he remains respectful as Speaker of the National Assembly that the High Court has no jurisdiction to hear any matter concerning the exercise of the Speaker’s discretion or decisions on matters concerning the management of the internal procedures and proceedings of the National Assembly and the High Court cannot issue or make any order directing him as Speaker, and/or for that matter, the National Assembly, on how to apply the Rules and Standing Orders; or how to conduct the business and proceedings of the National Assembly.

“In other words, my case before the High Court is that the Court has no jurisdiction to compel me on any matter concerning my powers as Speaker or on the scheduling of any motion before this National Assembly,” said the Speaker.

Speaker Martin said: “Given this position advanced in the Court, in a matter brought by certain Honourable Members, I did not think, and still do not think that it was prudent for me to make any decisions or further decisions unless the issue of my jurisdiction, the privileges of the House, and the parameters of the High Court’s jurisdiction were settled.”

“In all of the circumstances therefore, I will continue to hold in abeyance any decision on the matters before the National Assembly relating to the motions which have been filed by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, and now, by the Honourable Member for St. Christopher 5,” said Speaker Martin to the lawmaking body.

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