Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 05, 2019 (SKNIS): Three Motions of No Confidence filed between 2012 and 2013 never saw the light of day for debate in Parliament. A Speaker of the hallowed chamber did not budge para nada to schedule them on the Order Paper for debate and vote as a matter of urgency and without undue delay. The fate of the Federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis lay in abeyance for over two years (26 months) while the country was a spectacle of unprecedented tradition in the eyes of the Commonwealth and the world entire. A parliamentary majority was side-lined and its Motions of No Confidence against the former Dr. Denzil Douglas-led Administration seemingly reduced to child’s play. Many in society were courageous to speak up. Others maintained a deafening silence. Democracy was on trial. But, that is about to change with legislation.
In his New Year’s Day Message 2019, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said “we will legislate on reasonable time for debating and voting on Motions of No Confidence. No Parliament should be held hostage to the dictates of creeping dictatorship evidenced prior to February 2015.”
In referring to a Motion of No Confidence in the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis filed by Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister Harris noted the vast contrast between then and now. The Motion of No Confidence that was filed by the Leader of the Opposition on December 11, 2018, was scheduled, debated and voted on on December 24, 2018.
Speaker of the National Assembly, the Hon. A Michael Perkins executed his responsibility on a Motion of No Confidence in two weeks. Former Speaker Curtis Martin never scheduled the Resolution in 26 months.
“In December one of these sittings was devoted to debate and vote on the Motion of No Confidence put by the very group that refused to table, debate and vote on 3 Motions of No Confidence submitted to the National Assembly during 2012 and 2013. The former regime refused to allow a debate and vote on the Motions of No Confidence even when it was clear it did not command the support of a Majority of MPs,” said Dr. Harris.
“Yet with such an abominable record, they who are now in Opposition called for an urgent debate on an ill-conceived Motion. We are committed to a better way and this includes observing the principles of democracy. We facilitated the Motion of No Confidence and it was defeated, in fact becoming a vote of confidence in this government, in what it has achieved and in what it plans to do going forward on behalf of our people. Democracy is at an all-time high, firm and secure under Team Unity,” he added.
Although the Constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis does not give a fixed time or date for the hearing of Motions of No Confidence, Commonwealth tradition dictates that they are heard as a matter of urgency and within a reasonable time handed to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
In her Judgment (Re-issued November 13, 2017), Pearletta E. Lanns, High Court Judge (Ag) concluded that “every elected member or elected representative in the National Assembly has an implied right under section 52 (6) of the Constitution of Saint Christopher and Nevis to bring a motion of no confidence, and to have that motion listed, debated and voted on without delay and within a reasonable time.”
Justice Lanns also concluded after consideration of the arguments of the Parliamentary Majority that the “court has jurisdiction and that the rights which are implicit in section 52 (6) had been violated by the failure of the Speaker to schedule the motion of no confidence for debate, and to be voted on without undue delay and within a reasonable time of the motion being handed to the clerk, or sent, or left at the Clerk’s office.”
Section 52 (6) of the Constitution of Saint Christopher of Saint Kitts and Nevis states “the Governor General shall remove the Prime Minister from office if a resolution of no confidence in the Government is passed by the National Assembly and the Prime Minister does not within three days resign from his or her office or advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.”
The National Assembly on December 24, 2018, saw the Motion of No-Confidence in the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis brought by the Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, defeated. The failure of the Motion of No Confidence came on the heels of the 2019 Budget, which was overwhelmingly passed on December 18 as a Vote of Confidence in the Government.