|Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 10, 2019 (SKNIS): On the eve of the 2010 General Elections in St. Kitts and Nevis, Former Prime Minister and now Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Denzil Douglas, was adamant that Members of Parliament and those seeking political office must not hold dual-citizenship in contravention of the Constitution. It is an imbroglio in which Dr. Douglas now finds himself.|
This ensued in current Deputy Prime Minister and Parliamentary Representative for Constituency #5, Honourable Shawn Richards, and current Minister of Tourism et al, Honourable Lindsay Grant, renouncing their United States citizenship. On June 29 and June 30, 2009, Honourable Shawn Richards and Mr. Lindsay Grant travelled to the United States Embassy in Barbados and took the oath of renunciation. As Dr. Douglas heads to the landmark trial today (January 10) to face questions over his possession of a diplomatic passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica and his allegiance to a foreign power, many are perplexed as to his unbending position then and his surprising actions now.
Dr. Douglas, in an affidavit filed in the High Court Registry on February 21, 2018, admitted to holding a diplomatic passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica (DP 0000462), which he has used to travel on April 23, 2016. Dr. Douglas also admits to filling out and signing an application form for the diplomatic passport he holds, which is valid until July 29, 2020.
Section 28 (1) of the Constitution of St. Christopher and Nevis and Section Six (6) of the National Assemblies Act both provide that “a person shall not be qualified to be elected or appointed as a member if he is by virtue of his own act under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
In 2009, the Dr. Douglas-led Administration introduced the National Assembly (Amendment) Elections Bill 2009, which calls for candidates seeking political office to provide proof of the renunciation of dual-citizenship and the taking of an oath that one doesn’t hold dual-citizenship before nomination.
The Amendment states that a person nominating a candidate for election is also required to take an oath or affirmation that to the best of his or her knowledge the candidate he or she has nominated does not possess dual citizenship. The Bill also provides for a fine or imprisonment or both if information given is found to be false.
What has changed since then?
In what can be viewed as a turning of the tables, the Attorney General of St. Kitts and Nevis acting on advice of learned Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes of Trinidad and Tobago is asking the High Court to declare that Dr. Douglas has vacated his seat in the National Assembly by holding a diplomatic passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica. The Constitutional Motion also seeks an injunction to restrain Dr. Douglas from taking part in the proceedings of the National Assembly.
The parliamentary disqualification case had its first hearing in the High Court on February 26, 2018, before Justice Ward. and is now at trial stage with the summoning and presentation of experts on Dominican Law as it relates to questions of allegiance—the Claimants have two experts and the Defendant has one.
Lawyers for the Government are arguing that by filling out an application form for a passport of another country, being issued with said passport and using that passport to travel are positive acts that constitute adherence, allegiance and obedience to a foreign power.
Dr. Douglas’s lawyers are Mr. Sylvester Anthony, Ms. Angelina Sookoo and Delano Bart QC led by Mr. Anthony Astaphan SC.
The Government’s lawyers include Ms. Talibah Byron, Mr. Michael Quamina and Mr. MacClure Taylor led by Mr. Douglas Mendes SC.