The British Privy Council just handed the opposition in St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) a huge victory. Basically, the Labour government altered electoral boundaries on January 16, one month before the next general election. The fragmented opposition cried foul. (There is something quite amazing about the idea of a “fragmented opposition” in a country of only 55,000 people.) So they sued.
A judge immediately granted an injunction. The problem was that she granted it too late. Governor-General Edmund Lawrence signed the redistricting law at 6:20pm, whereas the judge issued her order at 7:38pm. Since you aren’t supposed to be able to injunct an action that’s already been taken, the injunction was discharged on January 27th.
But that was not the end of that! SKN, you see, is a part of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The OECS has a common judicial system, so the SKN opposition took the case to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in St. Lucia. The opposition argued that Section 119, Article 1 of the Constitution of the Federation of SKN defined “proclamation” as “a proclamation published in the Gazette.” Since the law had not been published in the Gazette, they argued, the injunction was valid.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court found for the government. “The Constituency Boundaries Commission reviewed the boundaries of the constituencies in the Federation and recommended alterations to the constituency boundaries; a draft proclamation giving effect to the recommendations of the Commission was thereafter approved by the National Assembly; the Governor General then signed a proclamation which (according to the evidence of the Attorney General) was published in the Official Gazette. All of this happened on Friday, 16th January 2015, and though one may say that the process was hurried through by the relevant authorities to gain an unfair political advantage, that is an issue of political morality and not constitutional validity, which is not suitable for judicial enquiry.”
But that was still not the end of that! SKN, like most of the Commonwealth Realms of the Caribbean (save Barbabos but including Trinidad), still uses the British Privy Council as its highest court of appeal. And so, the case went to London. Where the opposition won!
I can’t wait to read the final decision.
Anyway, this is not a huge piece of news. After all, SKN is just a small group of islands with only 55,000 people. But it is a striking example of how the microstates of the Caribbean survive by contracting out so many state functions to other polities and organizations, be it the OECS, the CSME, or the United Kingdom.