Astaphan confident in President appointment case
Last week the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) reserved its decision in the case between the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and the Government of Dominica. The UWP has challenged the manner in which former President Eliud Williams was elected to office last year.
Williams has since left office at the completion of his one-year stint in which he completed the term of President N.J.O. Liverpool who was ill.
The UWP has charged that the appointment of President Williams was in breach of Section 19 (1) of the Constitution. Earlier, in the High Court, Justice Jones ruled that there was a case to answer and sent the matter to trial but the Government appealed.
Government's lawyer, Anthony Astaphan SC said while he did not want to prejudge the final decision of the ECSC he has confidence in his presentation.
According to Astaphan, the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition became fatal once Section 22 (5) of the Constitution was invoked and the certificate of the Speaker was issued. That section states:
"A certificate under the hand of the Speaker stating that a person was declared to have been duly elected under section 19 of this Constitution shall be conclusive evidence of the fact so stated and shall not be questioned in any court of law."
This, Astaphan told the court, was a "major hurdle" that the respondents had to climb in order to win that case.
"Our case has always been that once the certificate has been issued, the law of the Commonwealth is that, that puts an end of the matter. And there is a good public policy position for it-to protect the integrity and the office and to ensure responsible behaviour on the part of all parties to expedite the matter as quickly as they can," Astaphan told the press.
He also noted a question from Justice of Appeal Mitchel to lawyer Richards which stated, "Are you seriously saying that if a President is not well…or for whatever reason wants to resign and he is asking the Prime Minister to initiate the process that you are calling that a tinted process." Astaphan said that "was a very significant question."
Nevertheless, Gildon Richards, the UWP's lawyer told the court that "the issue was never the validity of the qualifications of the President…There were clear breaches of the Constitution by the Speaker, the certificate came from behind and is tinted." Richards who was subjected to a barrage of questions from all three Judges was told by the court that "even if there were or may have been irregularities, whether you like it or not, the certificate of the Speaker is there as per Section 22 (5) and this is telling."
He, however, never relented and continued to present his case. He now awaits the court's decision.
"You know that I never preempt the decision of any Court; I can only hope that I gave a good account of myself and convince the Court to do the right thing. And I hope that the right thing is what I presented to them," he said. "Difficulty is a relative term; I did not see the difficulty that someone else might have seen. I don't know how the Court will see it; it's now a matter of wait and see."