I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to certain statements made by you during your performance on your show ‘Straight Up’ on Wednesday, 14th March 2012.
I want to begin by reminding you of Section 85(1) of the Saint Lucia Constitution with respect to the appointment of the Public Service Commission (PSC) which states as follows:
“There shall be a Public Service Commission for Saint Lucia (hereinafter in this section referred to as the Commission) which shall consist of a chairman and not less than two nor more than four other members, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister;
Provided that the Prime Minister shall consult the Leader of the Opposition before tendering any advice to the Governor-General for the purposes of this subsection.”
Section 85(5) – (9) of the Constitution provides for removing a member of the PSC.
As regards the appointment of the current PSC, you have been reported to have questioned the legality of the appointment of the Commission on the basis that the ‘Prime Minister did not consult the Leader of the Opposition’ as mandated by the Constitution.
I want to inform you that by letter dated 23rd February 2010, the then Prime Minister the Honourable Stephenson King wrote to the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr the Honourable Kenny Anthony, providing a list of the persons who were to comprise the PSC and by letter dated 10th March 2010, the Leader of the Opposition responded to the Prime Minister, evidencing that consultation in fact took place, consistent with the provisions of Section 85(1) of the Saint Lucia Constitution.
The obligation to consult does not give the Leader of the Opposition a right to object, but implicit in that provision is that the Prime Minister must obey all the rules of natural justice and act in a reasonable manner regarding any concerns raised by the Leader of the Opposition. If there is any issue that can be raised it would be in relation to the decision by the Prime Minister to proceed with the appointment of the particular persons, notwithstanding the concerns expressed by the Leader of the Opposition and which would have been the subject of judicial review.
Following this joint consultation, the Prime Minister in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, advised Her Excellency the Governor General and the current PSC was appointed.
In contrast, I will refer you to Section 87 (2) (b) of the Constitution where a specific and explicit veto power has been given to the Prime Minister with respect to the appointment of any person to hold an office such as Permanent Secretary (other than an appointment to an office of Permanent Secretary on transfer from another such office carrying the same salary). One noted academic has stated that the Courts have repeatedly emphasized that Public Service Commissions have been created in Commonwealth Caribbean Constitutions to insulate and protect Public Officers from political influence whether exercised by the Executive or otherwise.
This is a view I am certain will be endorsed by the Honorable Prime Minister and this view is captured and enshrined in Section 85 (12) of the Constitution which states that:
“The Commission shall, in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution, not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
I want now to draw the distinction between the PSC and Statutory and other boards of Government companies that are usually appointed by the Minister with responsibility for the board or entity. There is no statutory requirement for consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and as such, a very clear distinction must be drawn between those bodies or positions under the Constitution and those other entities for which no appointments are made by the Governor General.
Therefore, whilst it is reasonable to suggest that members of boards and other Government companies should tender their resignations, it is difficult to see how the same expectation could arise in the case of the constitutional appointments made by Her Excellency the Governor General which have been made on the joint consultation of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.
In short, the PSC is not a creature of politics. The PSC is a creature of the joint consultation of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition appointed in the best interest of the country and it is for that reason, that there are very clear procedures which require the establishment of a tribunal to conduct an investigation, in order to effect the removal of members of the PSC.
I will leave you to research those grounds yourself. It suffices to state that for the PSC to resign en masse because of a change in the political balance could be construed as a dereliction of duty to the Public and an affront to her Excellency, the Governor General!
Having said that, you can see that the statements reported to have been made by you, not only bring into disrepute, the office of her Excellency the Governor General, but also implies that the then Prime Minister, the Honourable Stephenson King was dishonest in that, he failed to consult with the Leader of the Opposition, yet he advised the Governor General to appoint the PSC.
Accordingly, when you confirm this with the current Prime Minister, Dr the Honourable Kenny Anthony, I would expect that you Claudius will do the honourable thing.
I have already pointed out to you how the members of the PSC can be removed from office, however you stated on your ‘Straight Up show “I call on the Prime Minister to immediately call on the PSC to tender their resignation to her Excellency the Governor General, failing which, the people of this country who have vested power in the hands of Dr Anthony and labour, to use every medium” available, to voice their outright displeasure and disgust and to publicly request the removal of the PSC from office”.
Claudius first of all, you appear to be ordering or commanding the Honourable Prime Minister to take action that is not provided for under the Constitution.
In addition, you have stated that if that course of action fails, you appear to be ‘inciting’ the public to use every medium available in order to remove members of the PSC that have been appointed by the Governor General, following the joint consultation of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.
Surely Claudius you must realize, as President of the Senate – and I put it to you – that your actions serve only to undermine the very parliamentary democracy that you serve and for which you have declared your support.
Moreover, there may be persons in the public who may take matters much further than you anticipate, because you have said that “The PSC is frustrating the government on a daily basis and preventing it from fulfilling its mandate”.
I would like to ask you Claudius, how can the PSC frustrate the Government on a daily basis? Can you provide for the public, particulars of appointments in the Public Service that have been approved by the PSC and of those that have not been approved by the PSC, following the general elections of 28th November 2011? Perhaps Claudius you can tell the public specifically which appointments the PSC has ‘blocked’. It will be interesting to receive the perspective of the Civil Service Association, the Trade Unions and the career Public Servants or Public Officers of this country, in this regard.
I realize that when you perform on your show ‘Straight Up’ you do not act in the official capacity of President of the Senate, but the 7.00 pm news item as carried by HTS on the 14th March 2012, described you as Talk Show Host and President of the Senate. There is the perception that, while you are no lawyer, you have access to legal resources and you are knowledgeable in certain matters relating to the law. That is why Claudius, as a person who has been entrusted with such an important office as President of the Senate, you should be careful what you say in the public domain, whether you are performing on your show or just talking generally on the streets.
Your incitement of the good citizens of this country follows the same pattern of that which appeared in the Crusader Newspaper of February 11th 2012. This exhortation to use ‘any medium available’ poses a serious threat, not only to the lives and safety of members of the PSC and their family, but also to persons who are invited by her Excellency the Governor General to provide public service.
Your remarks are designed to intimidate and to cause individuals generally, who serve on public bodies, to be concerned for their safety and by proceeding to name the individual members of the PSC you have exposed those individuals in particular and their family, to harassment which have in fact commenced and possible worse acts from members of the public.
I am aware that this current PSC proceeds in its deliberation, by adhering strictly to the rules of natural justice, to ensure that there is procedural propriety, no illegality and abides by the rules relating to fairness and to act in a proportionate manner. If anything can be said at this time, it is that recent legal decisions have provided the platform for bodies like the PSC to be mindful of the decisions that they make and to adhere to those principles at all times, all of which accords with the St. Lucia Labour Party’s mantra with respect to transparency, accountability and good governance.
The Prime Minister has called for a meeting of the minds of citizens of this country in order to address the challenges of the days ahead and he has considered co-opting persons of different political persuasions.
Claudius I think that this is a standard that you too should emulate so that persons of all political complexions can contribute to the development of this, our beloved country- Saint Lucia.
Remember the old saying ‘unto whom much is given, much is expected’.