It has been said that justice delayed is justice denied. However, even when justice is delayed it could leave a lethal sting. And so it will be with the Boundaries Commission case, technically described in its official title as ‘Guy Joseph v Constituency Boundaries Commission, The Honourable Prime Minister and Attorney General. “Remember this case before the general election? Guy Joseph had argued that Anthony Astaphan was too closely connected to me to represent the former Boundaries Commission. Dissatisfied, Guy Joseph applied to the Privy Council for permission to appeal. The Privy Council was not interested. It refused the appeal because it said ‘the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general importance which ought to be considered by the judicial committee at this time.’
“Of course the UWP got what it wanted; that is, to contest the general elections on the existing but unconstitutional boundaries because the Court of Appeal delayed its judgment, so much so that Guy Joseph complained. Even if we had contested on the new boundaries, I don’t think it would have made any difference to the outcome of the general election. So what is the sting? Unless Guy Joseph withdraws the UWP’s claim, then the original case will now be heard. This case cannot be withdrawn by the attorney general or the current Speaker and both the current Speaker and myself will have the right to appear in our individual capacities. Some interesting times await us all.”
Conceivably for the edification of his Facebook faithful, who evidently understand him far better than do the rest of us, the above is how Saint Lucia’s former prime minister Kenny Anthony summed up the so-called “boundaries issue” that for several weeks before the 2016 general elections had preoccupied both government and opposition.
Doubtless the languishing scores at Bordelais—some of whom have been waiting more than a decade for a trial date—will be comforted by the knowledge the former prime minister knew all along that “justice delayed is justice denied.” Then there is what the former PM refers to in his posted piece to the troops as the “sting”: Unless Guy Joseph withdraws the UWP’s claim, then the original claim will now be heard. The case cannot be withdrawn by the attorney general or the current Speaker . . . Both the current Speaker and myself will have the right to appear in our individual capacities.”
So, is the former prime minister saying what in the first place had resulted in Guy Joseph v Constituency Boundaries Commission—the 2015 government’s expressed decision to expand the current number of constituencies from seventeen to twenty-one—is written in stone? Is he saying a government cannot change its mind? And if it can, does that mean Allen Chastanet and his ministers can now say seventeen constituencies are more than enough?
To be fair, the former prime minister acknowledges Guy Joseph alone can withdraw the UWP’s claim. Neither the attorney general nor the current Speaker have the authority to kill it, he says. But he and the current Speaker have “the right to appear in our individual capacities.” (Presumably he meant to say “personal,” not individual.)
The former prime minister also claims the 6 June 2016 election was conducted with “unconstitutional boundaries” but he did not address the question whether the election itself was consequently illegal. Nevertheless, he seemed to blame the Court of Appeal for delaying its judgment. But then shouldn’t the prime minister have blamed himself instead? He it was, after all, who had announced the election date with a mind to catch the then opposition party off balance. He had almost a year to play with, March 2017 at the latest—and could’ve waited for the Privy Council’s decision. He chose not—and got stung in the worst way.
It may be worth reminding readers that the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal heard in January 2011 the matter of Ausbert Regis, Commissioner of Police v The Attorney General of Saint Lucia and did not deliver its decision until 28 November, a few days before the 2011 general elections that returned the then opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party to office.
As confusing as may be most of the above, however, one thing the former PM got absolutely right: “Some interesting times await us all.”