Health, News, Regional News

Lawyer to complete submission in vaccine mandate lawsuit case

Published 18 February 2022


Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan. (iWN file photo)

The High Court will today (Friday) continue hearing legal arguments on whether to grant leave for public sector unions in St. Vincent and the Grenadine to bring a constitutional motion against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that came into effect last December.

At the hearing last Friday, High Court judge, Justice Esco Henry, heard the arguments of the claimant, and the respondent were 10 minutes into their submissions when the hearing was adjourned for the day.

“Essentially, we presented our argument. Our argument was presented by female Dominican attorney, Cara Shillingford and Cara went on for like close to one hour and 45 minutes and then Senior Counsel Astaphan started his presentation, he went for like about 10 minutes before the court adjourned,” Counsel Jomo Thomas, a lawyer for the claimants, told iWitness News.

Last December, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union, the Public Service Union and the Police Welfare Association, filed legal documents asking for judicial review of the government’s decision.

They have also filed a constitutional challenge to the mandate.

The mandate has seen hundreds of public sector workers lose their jobs and accrued benefits over their failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as mandated by a law passed by the Cabinet.

Thomas has expressed confidence that his clients will triumph.

“We have very, very strong confidence in the judges who sit in the civil division that they would look at our filings, they would look at, evidently, what the other side is coming with —  And they are coming with very experienced counsel in … Senior Counsel Astaphan, but we are never concerned so much with the experience or the person who’s coming,” he told a press conference in December.

“We are fundamentally concerned with the law. And we think once we match law to law, the court would come away thinking that our filing, our application or motion is in keeping with the law, and, therefore, that is the basis on which we premise our confidence in this case.”

However, even before the legal challenge was formally launched, Astaphan, a Dominican senior counsel,  expressed confidence that the government would triumph.

The unions have brought the lawsuit even as regional and international courts have continually ruled in favour of governments and their vaccine mandates.

Thomas, however, said there are a number of things that are different about the union’s case.

“We believe that section 5(1), section 8(1) and section 8(2), which brings the declaration of who are the persons who are labelled ‘frontline workers’ and ‘the dismissal, we think when you look at those, there is broad overreach in terms of what the state purports to do,” he said in December.

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