ST KITTS – Lawyer says Opposition Leader did not swear allegiance to Dominica

(CNS) – The lawyer representing Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas in a court case filed by the St. Kitts-Nevis Government to have him removed from the Parliament for allegedly swearing allegiance to Dominica, has brushed aside the allegation.

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, speaking during a radio interview on WINN FM said the former prime minister did not have to swear any allegiance to Dominica in order to obtain a diplomatic passport of that Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) country.

“You don’t take an oath of allegiance and you don’t have to be a citizen of the country. Prime MInister Roosevelt Skerrit (Of Dominica) has sais in statements in Parliament and on a policy paper … the government’s position simply is that they reserve the right to engage and issue diplomatic passports and positions to non-Dominicans, including to persons from CARICOM and elsewhere in order to assist the government in a number of different policy matters,” Astaphan told radio listeners.

He said these persons are also provided with the diplomat passport as they assist the island with the controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) that allows for investors to be granted citizenship in return for making substantial investments in the socio-economic development of the island.

“Dominica has never required non-nationals to swear allegiance to get a diplomatic passport,” said Astaphan.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Vincent Byron announced that the government of Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris had filed a fixed date claim form for the High Court to rule on whether or not the former prime minister possessed a diplomatic passport of another country.

According to the documents filed in the High Court, the government is seeking a declaration that since the election to the National Assembly on February 16th, 2015, “Douglas became disqualified from being elected as a member of the National Assembly and was accordingly required to vacate his seat in the National Assembly by reason of his becoming a person who, by virtue of his own act, is in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth of Dominica, under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state, namely the said Commonwealth of Dominica”.

The government wants a declaration that Douglas has vacated his seat in the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis and wants an injunction restraining him from taking his seat in the National Assembly and from performing his functions as a member.

The government is also seeking costs and “such further and/or other relief as this Honourable Court may deem just and expedient”.

Last October, Prime Minister Harris accused Douglas of holding a Dominican diplomatic passport and said his administration would move to the High Court to get him expelled from the National Assembly.

Douglas, who until February 2015, was the longest-serving head of government in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has, in the past, denied the allegation made by Harris, who at one time had served as his finance minister, but had been dismissed, prior to the last general election.

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