It's all Over, Skerrit Wins Twice
Last week, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) ruled that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Education Minister Petter St. Jean were legally elected to the Dominica parliament. While that is the end of the legal battle on that matter of dual citizenship, unless Mr. Skerrit says: "Here, take a look at my passport; see for yourselves", in the eyes of the public, including some of his supporters, but suspicions linger that he was indeed a dual citizen when he was nominated to contest the Vieille Case seat in the 2009 general election. But do not bet on Skerrit showing anyone his passport.
Additionally, although the ECSC has ruled, "justice delayed is justice denied" has been proven to be accurate again. Undoubtedly, both petitioners and respondents were denied justice because judges of the Eastern Caribbean took more than three years to settle the matter.
In fact, Justice of Appeal Don Mitchell, in the judgement presented in St. Kitts last week, seems to suggest that the inordinate delay was due to what he perceived to be the conflict between the need for the court to be "fair" and the "repeatedly stated requirement that election petitions must be dealt with promptly". But it is difficult to see how the long delay of the trials was fair to either the respondents (Skerrit and St. Jean) or the petitioners (Ronald Green and Maynard Joseph). Skerrit has suggested that living with the charge of being an illegal prime minister hanging over his head for almost a full term was indeed painful and he added, rather unfortunately, that he will "take revenge" by winning all seats at the next general election. Somebody has to pay for that, to use the words of calypsonian Daddy Chess.
Similarly, we contend Dominica's social and economic development paid a heavy price for allowing this extremely divisive issue that could have been decided within six months, to fester for thirty-nine.
In the end the ECSC judges endorsed the judgment of Justice Gertel Thom. Recall that on January 10, 2012, she dismissed two petitions brought against parliamentary representatives Skerrit and St Jean of the ruling Dominica Labour Party. Justice Thom stated in her judgment that Ronald Green and Maynard Joseph of the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP), the petitioners, failed to establish a prima facie case that St. Jean was by virtue of his own hands under acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state in contravention of Section 32 of the Constitution of Dominica.
Also recall that Justice Thom disallowed a request for Skerrit and St. Jean to testify during the trial on grounds that they might incriminate themselves. She also rejected a subpoena of the respondent's passports to verify whether Skerrit and St. Jean received their French passports when they were children or when they were adults. These are the essential points that the judges of the ECSC decided on last week.
Justice Thom argued, and the ECSC judges concurred, that a letter that St. Jean and Skerrit wrote, on November 30, 2009, to the Ambassador of France in St. Lucia requesting the immediate renunciation of their French Citizenship does not prove that the gentlemen had in fact incriminated themselves in the context of the case. In these letters, St. Jean and Skerrit stated that they were regretfully making formal requests for renunciation of their French citizenship and that a recent court decision in Jamaica had raised some new questions about dual citizenship.
Justice Thom agreed with the submission that St. Jean was referring to the Dabdoub v Vaz case in which Vaz was disqualified as an election candidate because he travelled as an adult on a United States passport. But the judge ruled that there was no evidence to show that St. Jean received the French passport during the 2000 to 2002 period as Green contended. Justice Thom's conclusions were essentially upheld by the appeal judges of the ECSC.