Court ruling against government appealed

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts & Nevis: Attorney General Dennis Merchant has appealed a High Court ruling that found him in contempt of court for his role in defying an injunction that prevented the government from dealing with a report of the Constituencies Boundaries Commission in Parliament.

Justice Rita Joseph-Olivetti handed down her decision last Friday and said Merchant facilitated the government’s defiance of the injunction by advising Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas to do “the very thing which the order restrained” – laying the document in parliament.

The injunction had been filed by the People’s Action Movement’s (PAM) sole parliamentarian Shawn Richards last month.

Merchant has appealed Justice Joseph-Olivetti’s decision in the Appeals Court of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

“The learned judge erred and misdirected herself when she failed to consider that it is patiently improper to allege the serious crime of contempt simply on the basis of the Attorney General’s Office.

“In any event, Section 3 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act…of the Constitution grants absolute immunity and preclude any civil or criminal proceedings against the Attorney General in relation to any matter relating to or in respect of proceedings in the National Assembly,” Merchant said.

While the government fights the decision, PAM has lauded it and said that “the finding of contempt against the Attorney General is at the core of the principle that no one in a democracy is above the rule of law, particularly those who are in position to advise and administer the laws of the land”.

PAM is trying to prevent boundary changes, recommended in the Constituencies Boundaries Commission, from taking effect before the next general election, which is due by March 2010 but expected later this year.

The party says the changes would be rushed and there would be insufficient time for public involvement in the process. 

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