The lawyer representing Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas in a court case filed by the St. Kitts-Nevis government to have him removed from the Parliament for allegedly swearing allegiance to Dominica, has brushed aside the allegation.
Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, speaking during a radio interview on WINN FM said the former prime minister did not have to swear any allegiance to Dominica in order to obtain a diplomatic passport of that Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) country.
He said these persons are also provided with the diplomat passport as they assist the island with the controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) that allows for investors to be granted citizenship in return for making substantial investments in the socio-economic development of the island.“You don’t take an oath of allegiance and you don’t have to be a citizen of the country. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit (Of Dominica) has in statements in Parliament and on a policy paper…where the government’s position simply is that they reserve the right engage and issue diplomatic passports and positions to non-Dominicans, including to persons from CARICOM and elsewhere in order to assist the government in a number of different policy matters,” Astaphan told radio listeners.
“Dominica has never required non-nationals to swear allegiance to get a diplomatic passport,’ said Astaphan.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Vincent Byron announced that the government of Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris had filed a fixed date claim form for the High Court to rule on whether or not the former prime minister possessed a diplomatic passport of another country.
According to the documents filed in the High Court, the government is seeking a declaration that since the election to the National Assembly on February 16th, 2015, “Douglas became disqualified from being elected as a member of the National Assembly and was accordingly required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth of Dominica, under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state, namely the said Commonwealth of Dominica”.
The government wants a declaration that Douglas has vacated his seat in the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis and wants an injunction restraining him from taking his seat in the National Assembly and from performing his functions as a member.
The government is also seeking costs and “such further and/or other relief as this Honourable Court may deem just and expedient”.
Last October, Prime Minister Harris accused Douglas of holding a Dominican diplomatic passport and said his administration would move to the High Court to get him expelled from the National Assembly.
Harris said then that the government “is finalising an application to the High Court, seeking declarations that the Leader of the Opposition is no longer eligible to continue sitting as a representative in the National Assembly and that he should, accordingly, be required to vacate his seat”.
Harris said that the issue had already been brought to the attention of the Speaker “given the importance of this for our democracy, our country, our people and its parliament”.
Douglas, who until February 2015, was the longest-serving head of government in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has, in the past, denied the allegation made by Harris, who at one time had served as his finance minister, but had been dismissed, prior to the last general election.
Astaphan told radio listeners that the only island within the nine-member OECS, to which both St. Kitts-Nevis and Dominica belong, requiring citizenship either by birth or nationality or under the CIP programmes is Antigua and Barbuda.
“Dominica certainly does not,” he insisted, defending the right of the opposition Leader to seek employment anywhere in the world.
“If there is a particular expertise acquired either prior to or the many years in government that could assist another government in the OECS territories I cannot see why that person cannot be used. Being a member of the opposition does not preclude you from working.
“If you could work in St. Kitts or you can work in Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent or Antigua and it is a matter of the government to decide whether or not in the particular field you are assisting it believes it is appropriate and right …to issue a diplomatic passport to that particular individual”.
Astaphan insisted that there were other people holding diplomatic passports of Dominica who are from CARICOM assisting the government “and there has been no issue…
“I think if you are a minister of government you are not expected to work privately and you are not expected to work overseas that would require you to travel very often. The only issue the Leader of the Opposition would have for working for another OECS or advising another country …would be he has to ensure …not to miss three consecutive sittings of the Parliament otherwise he may well find himself subject to a requirement to vacate the House,” Astaphan added.
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