Saint Lucia
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Chastanet’s Declaration of Victory Refuted

Opposition Leader, Allen Chastanet
Opposition Leader, Allen Chastanet

Reports indicating that Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet has been granted a leave of absence to return to the sitting of parliament, pending the outcome of a vote by legislators in the Lower House to lift his suspension is being labelled as misguided and fabricated statements.

On Monday, Chastanet appeared in court to contest against the suspension from the parliamentary chambers.

The Micoud South Member of Parliament lodged a legal suit against the House Speaker and Attorney General and Principal Legal Adviser Leslie Mondesir, in which he claimed that the suspension was unlawful and should be overturned.

In another twist to the case, it was reported that an affidavit had been filed by Dr.  Ernest Hilaire – Leader of Government Business in the Lower House  indicating that government members planned to pass a motion at the next House Sitting to lift the suspension.

Chastanet sought the court’s indulgence to overturn the suspension. He argued that the Speaker had no power to order his arrest when he intended to leave the House voluntarily.

According to reports, after negotiations were completed between the parties, the Opposition Leader’s legal team was directed to terms of condition for a formal promise or undertaking, which was given by the Speaker to the Court.

The purported undertaking outlines as follows;

– To invite Claimant to attend the next sitting of the House, whenever that should occur;

– Not to exclude or cause to be excluded the Claimant from entering the House or the precincts of the House;

–  To allow the Claimant to take his seat in the House, but not participate in proceedings, pending the vote on the motion to lift the suspension of the Claimant;

–  The motion to lift the suspension of the Claimant shall be the first matter to be dealt with by the House at the next sitting of the House, whenever that should occur; and

– Upon the motion being carried the Claimant will be at liberty to carry on his duties in service of the House.

Subsequently, it is reported that Chastanet will therefore be attending all future sittings of the House.

The Micoud South MP’s claim that his suspension and detention were unlawful has been scheduled for case management and trial later this year.

Meanwhile, taking to the electronic media to host his Straight Up show, on Monday, Francis contended that there has never been an instance whereby the House Speaker suspended any parliamentarian from the house sitting.

“This Speaker has never suspended anybody,” he explained. “The suspension of the Micoud South MP was done by the House of Assembly, not the speaker.”

Francis said that the judge had attempted to expedite the case, but since legal representatives of the opposing parties indicated they would be undisposed until July the case management and trial date was set for July 28.

Citing postings listed by members or persons affiliated to the opposition United Workers Party (UWP), Francis denied reports that stated Dr. Hilaire had filed an affidavit in court to overturn the suspension of Chastanet from House sittings.

Providing a brief on the latest court sitting, he stated: “No injunctive relief was given to anybody, no ruling was made by the court (today)…an agreement was arrived at between Mr. Chastanet’s lawyer and the respondents lawyers based on an affidavit by the Leader of Government Business and Deputy Prime Minister, which had nothing to do with the merits of the case.”

In shedding light on the matter, Francis said, the case is not about the Speaker and that “even Mr. Chastanet’s lawyers recognize that what the Speaker did was in keeping with the Standing Orders and what the House did was in keeping with the Standing Orders.

“Ninety-nine (99) percent of Mr. Chastanet’s application to the court is that the Standing Orders upon which the Speaker and the House relied are unconstitutional.”

Added Francis: “They have not found anything wrong with the procedure, so they have now gone to the court for the court to decide. The substance of his case is that the Standing Orders …which states that the House and the Senate shall have the power to make rules to regulate its own procedure.”

Speaking on the Straight Up show, Anthony Astaphan SC, counsel for the government side said the order of the court was precisely what the legal team had anticipated.

“There was no determination by the court for or against Mr. Chastanet, or for or against the Attorney General and the Speaker,” the counsellor explained. “What the court agreed to, as a result of a negotiated agreement between Mr. Chastanet’s lawyers and myself. There are substantiative clauses in there …which were absolutely to our satisfaction.”

Astaphan said, they felt “the order reflected a sufficiently clear pathway to moving forward to the determination of the trial, because the trial has not been heard.”

He noted: “In fact, the judge has not made a single finding or factor for or against Mr. Allen Chastanet.”

Contrary to postings from the UWP personnel, which the counsellor deemed were “very misleading statements” and summing up the matter, Astaphan contended: “At no time did Dr. Ernest Hilaire make an admission to any wrongdoing, in fact he confirmed the position of the elected members of government that in the interest of the constituents, in the constituency held by the Leader of the Opposition  …it would be in the interest of their constituents  (not Mr. Chastanet) to put an end to the sanctions.”