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MP Liburd concern over actions of PM Harris to taint the judicial and parliamentary branches

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Published 25 May 2017

MP Liburd concern over actions of PM Harris
to taint the judicial and parliamentary branches.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, May 25th 2017 – Chairperson of the opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), Hon. Marcella Liburd said Wednesday expressed concern over actions by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris to erode democracy in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Liburd, who is also the Parliamentary Representative for St. Christopher 2 (Central Basseterre), has warned of incidents of injustice not only in the Parliament but also in a level of the judiciary.

“There is a calculated and systematic attempt by the Timothy-Harris-led Team Unity Government to trample on the fundamental rights and democratic principles of St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Liburd during Freedom 106.5 FM popular “Issues” programme.

She pointed out that the principle of the separation of powers guide democracies all over the world, which means that the National Assembly or the Legislature, the Executive or the Cabinet, and the Court, the Judiciary must operate separately.

“The Court in particular must be independent of the Cabinet or the Government as justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done,” she said.

“One of the first acts of the Attorney General (Hon. Vincent Byron) and the Timothy Harris government was to dismiss the Director of Public Prosecutions, because the DPP was investigating a matter that involved a member of the Cabinet,” said Liburd, a lawyer by profession, who pointed out that on the day of the hearing of the lawsuit the DPP had brought against the government challenging hid dismissal from office, Prime Minister Harris was present at the court hearing.

“What does Prime Minister Harris have to do with the settlement of a court matter with the DPP? The matter was later settled out of Court for an undisclosed sum of taxpayers’ money and a confidentiality clause was placed in the agreement to avoid public scrutiny,” said Liburd

She pointed out the concern that two of the Prime Minister’s sisters are magistrates and partly in control of the court.

“After two years and three months there is still no Deputy Registrar of the High Court. The Registrar/Additional Magistrate) Janine Harris-Lake is back in that post. She controls everything and once she is not there, the operations of the High Court come to a halt. That happened again last week,” said Ms. Liburd.

She said the frequent absences of Mrs. Harris-Lake from office have left “many lawyers disgruntled and upset because nothing happens once she is not out to work.”

Another of Prime Minister Harris’ sister, Donna Harris was appointed a Magistrate “without the post being advertised as required by law.”

“There is really no independence of the court at that level and persons are of the view that they are not getting justice as the perception is the courts are under the control by Harris and his government,” said Liburd, who also expressed concern over Prime Minister Harris’ presentation of a gift to the new Judge of the High Court.

“The prime minister as seen on ZIZ Television giving a gift to the judge during his courtesy call on the Prime Minister and arranged by Mrs. Janine Harris-Lake, the Registrar. Why on earth would the Prime Minister want to give the judge a gift? The optics just did not look right,” she said.

“Does the Prime Minister not know about the separation of powers or he does not mind on trampling on those principles?” she asked.

Suggesting that the aim of Prime Minister seems bent on blurring the lines between the Executive and the judicial branches, Ms. Liburd said the National Assembly appears to be under the total control of the government with the Speaker actually assisting the Government and stifling the voice of the opposition.

She referred to a Motion of No confidence filed last December against Speaker Hon. Michael Perkins.

“It was never heard. We (the opposition) got no opportunity to debate it in a democracy. The Speaker clearly with the instructions from the people on the government side tried it all by himself and they sat there and said nothing. He threw out the motion. He listened only to himself and advised himself on the matter. He was judge, jury and executioner without due regard to natural justice,” said Liburd, who served as Deputy Speaker and Speaker before being elected as a Parliamentary Representative in 2010.

“The bias of the Speaker (Hon. Michael Perkins) was again in the full glare of the public as he continued his attempts to shut the opposition up,” said Liburd.

She said MP Konris Maynard was on his feet during Tuesday’s sitting on the National Assembly waiting to be recognized by the Speaker, but instead of enquiring of him the reason for his standing, as required by standing orders, the Speaker deemed him to be grossly out of order and requested him to leave the sitting.

She noted also that at Tuesday’s Parliament Speaker Perkins told the Leader of the Opposition, (the Right Hon.) Dr. Denzil Douglas that he will not be allowed to make further references on the Chinese fugitive Ren Biao on the premise that the ‘government was investigating the matter.’

“Who gave him that information? The whole cabinet was not saying anything, but here is the Speaker informing the Leader of the Opposition and the general public that the government will make the report of the investigation public.

However when Dr. Harris spoke, the Speaker did not stop the Prime Minster from speaking at length on the same Chinese matter. Clearly the Speakers’ ruling was for one side. His job is to protect the government from criticism,” said Liburd.

“We are saying that these incidents of injustice cannot continue. Parliament is supposed to be the bastion of democracy and we must be free to be critical of the government when necessary. People voted for us. We are representing our constituents and a majority of the people in the country. We must be heard,” said Ms. Liburd.

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