The Leader of the Opposition has, on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia, scored a victory over a flawed Parliamentary procedure related to the Speaker of the House, Claudius Francis’ handling of the Privileges Committee.
On Monday October 25th 2022, the High Court ordered that the Defendant, Mr. Claudius Francis, in his capacity as Chairman of the Privileges Committee, is restrained from conducting any business of the Privileges Committee with regard to the referrals that were made by him on the 11th day of October, 2022 to the Privileges Committee in respect of the complaints made against the Claimant, the Honourable Allen Chastanet by Honourable Richard Frederick and the Honourable Ernest Hilaire, respectively, such complaints forming part of present proceedings for injunctive relief until the determination of the claim for relief under the Constitution.
Prior to yesterday’s claim for injunctive relief, by letter dated 19th October to the Honourable Speaker of the House, Legal Counsel for the Opposition Leader highlighted the flaws in the process that would infringe the rights of the Leader of the Opposition under the Constitution.
Instead of taking the advice in good faith, in his reply dated 20th October the Speaker chose to double down and formally notified the Opposition Leader’s attorney at law that there was nothing wrong the process which is largely governed by the Standing Orders and the House of Assembly (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act Cap 1.08 and refused to cancel the scheduled meeting.
Counsel for the Leader of the Opposition then filed a claim with the High Court asking for declarations from the Court that the Speaker did not have the power to refer the complaint, that the referrals were unconstitutional, null and void or alternatively violated the Claimant’s rights under the Constitution, and for an injunction to prevent the flawed process from moving forward.
Prior to hearing the claim for injunction against the Speaker, Counsel for the Speaker’s attorney admitted the process was indeed flawed, the motion having not been passed in the House, and the Speaker would be willing to withdraw the proceedings and abandon the scheduled hearings.
Counsel for the Leader of the Opposition submitted that the Speaker had no power to ‘withdraw’ the matter as he had initiated a formal process of the House, though procedurally and constitutionally flawed and the purported referral was a nullity.
The Claim for an injunction against Mr. Francis, in his capacity as Chairman of the Privileges Committee was then heard by the Court and injunctive relief was granted to the Claimant, the Honourable Allen Chastanet.
Determination of the substantive issues of the Claim will be heard at a later date and the matter was adjourned to 1st and 2nd December 2022.
The Leader of the Opposition has vowed to continue to seek proper Parliamentary procedure and to stand up for justice and guard against those who would use power in an attempt to silence the people.