Thursday, 07 June 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St john's - Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer is being accused of “seeking to punish Gerald Watt by stripping the office (of chairman) away from him.”
The accusation was made on Wednesday by Watt’s attorney Dr David Dorsett during a hearing before High Court Judge Justice Mario Michel.
Justice Michel is being asked to award several remedies to Watt, including declaring all the actions of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and current Chairman of the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC), Juno Samuel, null and void pursuant to the Representation of the People Amendment Act. That Act was further amended in 2011 in a manner that made Sir Gerald ineligible to serve.
Watt has brought a suit against the Prime Minister, Samuel and Attorney General Justin Simon QC, challenging Spencer’s action in signing an order enforcing the 2011 amendments, which removed him as head of ABEC.
Dorsett argued that the Prime Minister was granted certain powers by Parliament but not for him to abuse, which he in fact did.
The attorney said that following the ruling of High Court Judge Justice Jennifer Remy returning Sir Gerald as ABEC’s chairman, Spencer committed an act deliberately targeting Watt in an effort to undermine the judge’s decision.
Dorsett told the court that if the prime minister felt discontented with the court’s ruling then he ought to have done the responsible and lawful thing and appealed the decision as provided by the Supreme Court Order and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act.
“It is the reasonable and lawful thing to do. One should not take the law into his own hands and to basically mock and scorn the judiciary under the mistaken notion that Parliament is the highest court of the land… as a matter of fact Parliament is no court,” Dorsett said.
The attorney raised another issue, namely that Watt has not been receiving the chairman’s salary, but payment as an ordinary member despite the court’s ruling.
He said Watt is entitled to certain benefits as chairman and added that his rights and entitlements have been stripped away with the amendments being made retroactive.
Dorsett said Sir Gerald was not questioning Parliament’s right to pass laws, but rather the abuse of power and interference “of a member of the executive (Spencer) of the substantive right of a person when those rights have been declared by the proper body the courts.”
According to Dr Dorsett when Parliament passed the 2011 Act in which the minister (PM) was granted the power to appoint a day on which the Act would come into force, it was not giving him (the minister) the power to act as a judge to determine what Watt’s rights were to be.
Dorsett said that the order signed by Spencer was targeted at Sir Gerald based on the chronological events from the passing of the bill to when the Prime Minister signed the order.
“This order and the timing have a specific intention, a particularly negative effect on the applicant (Watt). The Prime Minister as a member of the executive overstepped the line. There is a thin line in the use of power granted by Parliament and the improper use of power.
“The Prime Minister wants to have his cake and eat it too. The order of 2012 was part of a legislative plan after the judgment was handed down to secure a certain result that Watt be stripped of his rights under the law,” Dorsett told the court.
Attorney General Justin Simon QC, who is defending himself, said the prime minister was acting in accordance with the statutory provisions of the Representation of the People Amendment Act.
Simon said Spencer did not usurp any authority; but in fact acted as Parliament authorized him so to do.