Saturday, April 10, 2010

The courts of Antigua Jamaica and Dominica

By Dr Emanuel Finn

The last half of the twentieth century has witnessed a significant increase in global migration and dual citizenships as a key dynamic of globalization.

World borders have become more fluid for capital, investment and movement of people. The United Nations Population Division (UNPD) estimates that 185 million people have lived outside their country of birth for at least 12 months since the mid-70s.
PM Spencer
An Antiguan court ruled against Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

But mass migration, dual citizenship and election irregularities are causing legal issues for some who are holding and vying for high office in the Caribbean archipelago.

Today the constitutions and courts of these islands in the sun are struggling to legally redefine and rule on these new political realities while trying to maintain their own clear definitions of sovereignity and territorial integrity.

Such was the case in Jamaica during the 2007 general elections. After the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) defeated the People’s National Party (PNP) in the West Portland Constituency, the opposition called on the High Court to remove the Member of Parliament on the basis of his dual citizenship with the United States.

After a protracted legal battle, the court ruled in favour of the PNP and barred JLP’s Daryl Vaz from holding a seat in the House of Representatives.

In its judgment, the court ruled that the fact that Mr. Vaz had renewed his American passport indicated that he had pledged allegiance to another country. It ordered a by election in which Mr. Vaz could be a candidate if he renounced his American citizenship.

But Mr. Vaz’s PNP opponent Mr. Abe Dabdoub, expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome saying that the fact that his rival knowingly broke the laws and violated the constitution, should be enough to bar him from participating in future elections.

Mr. Dabdoub said, ‘The responsibility to ensure that all candidates in an election are eligible lies squarely with the office of Elections, the party's leader(s) and the candidates.

There is no If Mr. Vaz had broken any laws; he had. The Constitution is clear and the court's decision is a testament to that.’ Mr. Vaz renounced his U.S citizenship and won the March 2009 by election by a wider margin.

The ruling against the government demonstrated the Jamaican court’s fairness, independence, leadership and courage. The Antiguan courts have followed that precedence.

Two weeks ago a Judge in St. Johns nullified the election victories of the PM and two of his ministers for election irregularities. The Spencer government has since appealed the decision and his party continues to govern.

In Dominica the opposition filed five petitions against the Labour party government for alleged irregularities in the 2009 elections including PM Skerrit’s dual citizenship.

But Skerrit’s lead attorney has asked the court to strike out the petitions against his client and the government.

The attorney is also waging a vigorous PR campaign by trying the case in the court of public opinion and preventing it from being heard in the court of law.

Legal experts and sources who are familiar with the case indicate that the government has some holes and gaps in its defense.

But if the court grants Skerrit and his attorney their wishes, that would be a colossal mistake.

It would demonstrate a lack of respect for the constitution, laws and people. The courts would send shock waves through the entire region and world.

It would almost certainly throw the debate over the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and Privy Council into further disarray.

Can you hear the background rumblings? Skerrit and the compromised Dominican courts can have their CCJ but let us keep our Privy Council.

It would demonstrate that as a people and region with a painful history, we have not attainted the maturity to attain self determination.

Do we need the Law Lords of the Privy Council to hand down a fair decision?
I don’t think we should doubt the CCJ as the ultimate legitimate court.

Now is the time to allow ourselves to mature as a nation and region and take on the challenges of an ever evolving society. The Antiguan and Jamaican courts have respectfully answered that courageous clarion call.

Next up to ‘bat’ is Dominica’s court. The world is watching and paying very close attention.

If the court throws out the petitions and allows Skerrit (who became the accidental PM after the quick and sudden deaths of PMs Douglas and Pierre) to remain in office having probably knowingly broken the laws as he proclaimed in December, then our country may be in trouble.

It will be an empty victory for Skerrit and his die-hard supporters who can’t see (and many sadly can't grasp) the potential long term consequences.

It would mean that he would be occupying the office of the Prime Minister without heed or respect for the constitution. That is a text book formula for disaster.

The Dominican courts need to heed President Obama’s advice. ‘We need not fear the future, we should shape it; we need not avoid responsibility we should embrace it, and when we do, we will answer the call of history’.

The petitions are about Dominica and not about PM Skeritt, Mr. Ron Green and the opposition. The ‘take home' message is that having power and popularity should not mean you cannot be touched by the legal system.

The court should be mindful that it does not reinforce the reality that myopia, insecurity, greed, nepotism and narcissism are the ingredients, which when combined with platform politics spawn the average politician we get.

Long gone are those Members of Parliament like Premier Le Blanc who inspired the level of nation building and enthusiasm, which led our parents to believe tomorrow would be better. Today we have a lot more than our grandparents ever dreamt possible.

The question is more of what? We are certain that we have more mouths capable of producing “podium-promises” designed to placate a populace and country whose only desire is good and ethical leadership.

We owe it to future generations to use intelligence and patience with respect for the process of law in order to birth a society based on fairness and justice. They need not inherit the effects myopia where party politics took presidency over country.

Whatever the petitions’ final outcomes if they are heard, our people and country will be the victors. Education and sacrifice, like freedom is not cheap.

The petitions provide our county an excellent opportunity to learn, and become more reliably informed of the politics, policies, laws and constitution of our homeland. The time to achieve practical long term change and reform of our political system is now. The future of our nation and region is in our hands.
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So now ye, of diminishing surname and even less faith in "Dominica courts", are now a legal "export"!
Ah well, they do say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Oh, and by the way, the "Dominica court" is not as indigenous as you appear to believe. Dominica is part of the East Caribbean Supreme Court and the judges currently serving in Dominica are both non-Dominicans
So Dr. Emmannuel Finn you have become a legal expert. By your writings you have found Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit guilty with or without evidence. Leave it for you, there would be no Court Trial.

As for you, no other decision of the court will be sufficient, and since you have found Skerrit to be guilty the local court MUST just make it formal. Rubber stamp your decision.

Well for your information Dr. Finn, our OECS Supreme Court is very much independent. The Court will look at the HARD EVIDENCE before it and make a determination just as in Antigua and Jamaica.

In Jamaica the hard evidence was that Daryl Vaz had renewed his US Passport as an adult and travelled on that same US Passport as an adult. This was the basis of the Judge's rulling. Mr. Daryl Vaz did not contest the fact that he had renewed and travelled on his US Passport as an adult. Daryl Vaz had agued that he had obtained US citizenship as a minor on his mothers doing and therefore was not under any Foreign Allegiance.

The Judge ruled that once he renewed and travelled on that US passport as an adult he had given allegiance to a Foreign Power.

I have already indicated that if Mr. Skerrit obtained a French passport as an adult and so travelled on that passport as an adult then the court must rule in the opposition's favour. However, the Opposition MUST present that evidence in Court.

In Antigua, the polling stations opened late and closed late. The elections were conducted outside the times stated in the Constitution. That was undisputed facts and the Courts rules accordingly.

Listening to the recordings of Hon Skerrit, He has never indicated that he has a French Passport, He has never indicated that he obtained a French passport as an Adult neither has he indicated that he has travelled on a French passport as an adult. All he said is that he has been a Citizen of France since June 1972. Can't one be a Citizen of a country without having a valid passport? Just throwing this out!

The Opposition is yet to present any evidence that Mr. Skerrit did infact obtained or renewed a French Passport as an Adult or in fact travelled on that passport as an adult.

Not withstanding, you find issue with Tony Astaphan for seeking to strike off the petitions. Why should the case go forward if no evidence can be provided? Why waste the court's time when no evidence is being forwarded?

You keep on insisting that Hon Skerrit broke the law in December, but what about Ron Green, Sam Raphael, Bobby Frederick, John Bruno, Bernard Willshire and Eddison James all of whom are dual citizens with foreign passports renewed as adults and which they travelled on as adults. These are undisputed facts with HARD EVIDENCE to so demonstrate.

I have said that your hatred towards Roosevelt Skerrit has taken your writings to the level of Roro coming after a few drinks of Maho whisky in The Lab in Mahaut.

The Court will decide after June 17 and 18 when the hearing to strike off will proceed. You must advise the Opposition to bring forth the HARD EVIDENCE and not base their case solely on HEAR SAY.

Jude Nicholas
Jude’ I think you are being irresponsible by talking about hatred towards the PM. Please understand that when one is in the public arena everyone has an opinion about him or her. Just as when I write I expect to be criticized but I don’t take it personal.

We are not in Kindergarten playing in the sand box or sharing ‘recess sandwiches’. Politics like citizen journalism is a big man’s and strong lady’s game and one has to be able to accept praises, as well as accept criticisms even if they deem them unfair and unwarranted. I don’t respond to postings that are personal in nature and do not do anything to push any policy discussions/debates that I and others can learn and benefit from.

I would like you to know that I respect the office of the he Prime Minister, the office of the Opposition, the laws of our country, the courts and the constitution. I think that is what you need to know and that is what matters. Whether I like or hate the PM or the Opposition leader is inconsequential in the larger picture. Please accept that.

Also I hope like you the courts settle the matters affecting our country in June. Either way the court rules, we will all have to accept it and move on. The court’s decision is final.

I hope you enjoyed reading the article.


Emanuel Finn
Dr. Finn, please don't waste your precious time debating Judas; the man is an idiot and a Skeritt fanatic. He is not capable of sound reasoning, therefore, you need to totally ignore him. I have confidence that when the case against Mr. Skeritt goes to court, he will lose. It is a known fact that Skeritt is a pathological liar, no one believes that he acquired French citizenship as a child. If that were the case, he would have presented his documents to the Electoral Commission prior to or during his nomination in December. As for Astaphans P.R. stunt it won't work, he is so confident that the case has no merit, then, he should let it go to court......and let the judge decide. In the end, when the case is heard, we shall see......let the chips fall where they may!

Goodbye Judas, enough of your ill-informed and ignorant opinions.......have you nothing of value to contribute to this blog? Dominica is a country base on the rule of law, and Mr. Skeritt is not above the law. If he is in violation of the constitution, then, he must demit office immediately! No amount of popularity is going to change the decision of the court.
To the Anonymous Coward on April 12, 2010 1:17 AM.

I am going to be very charitable to you and allow your uneducated blog to just go without the necessary responses. It is evident that such verbal diarrhoea is coming from an uncultivated mind.

Although I Do not speak on behalf of Dr. Finn, I am almost certain that he would be very dissapointed and outraged at your unfounded comments.

However, I will defend your right to make an utmost fool of yourself in such manner.

Jude Nicholas
Go ahead Judas and run your stupid mouth, when, Skeritt ends up in jail...............I hope you will be around to defend him. Or are you a fairweather friend that will only be around in good times.

Bye joker Judas!
This problem is easy to solve...NO ONE should be allowed public office, especially the offices of President, PM, or Leader of the Opposition if they have foreign citizenship!
Dr Finn, have you ever contested elections in Dominica?
No I have never contested elections in Dominica and don't plan to do so. But my dad's nephew Dr. John Finn who now resides in Nashville contested Castle Bruce in 1995 for the Dominica Freedom Party. He lost to our first cousin -UWP's (the late) the Romanus Bannis.
I inquired about this because some reader seemed confused about your last name being John-Finn instead of Finn.
My extended family name from Castle Bruce is John-Finn or Jno-Finn but my dad a long time ago in the 50s when he was in Guadeloupe dropped the John and so my official last name is Finn. That’s the last name my nuclear family carries. Of course I identify with both.
I follow the aguements on that passport and citizen case and I find it so silly.
No one will or should obtain a passport without a proof of citizenship or a valid birth certificate. If The Hon. Prime Minister is or is not a French citizen by birth or Nationally, he and not the opposition will have to prove it. And judge will surely ask for this evidence, so wait for the court's hearing and stop calling names like ediots
Dominican abroard

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