Says He Cannot ‘Properly’ Represent The Commission
THE opposition United Workers Party UWP) is turning on the screws in its attempt to fight off the Constituency Boundaries Commission report tabled in parliament last month.
Castries South East Member of Parliament Guy Joseph has won an injunction from the High Court preventing the Governor General from signing the report into law, but now Joseph is challenging Dominican Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan’s appearance as legal counsel for the Commission in his case.
Astaphan’s role as Commission counsel is also being challenged by Commission member Leonne Theodore-John of the UWP, because of his “long standing relationship” with the Prime Minister and Commission Chairman Peter Foster QC.
Joseph has applied to the High Court for an Order restraining Astaphan, from acting on behalf of the Commission and for the Commission to be independently represented in the case “by counsel who is not connected with any of the political parties or with any of the parties” involved in the case.
Joseph has named the Commission, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General representing the Governor General as respondents in his case. Astaphan earlier appeared in court representing the Prime Minister and the Governor General, but according to Joseph’s application, he was now representing the Electoral and Boundaries Commission as well.
Joseph contends at the February 27 court hearing of his petition for the injunction restraining the Governor General, Astaphan had indicated that for the purposes of the day’s proceedings only, he would be representing the Commission.
But he said his attorney, Gareth Patterson Q.C. had promptly admonished Astaphan that in his view neither Astaphan nor lawyers from Commission chairman Peter Foster’s chambers “could properly appear on the Commission’s behalf since the Commission must be independently represented.”
But Joseph said that following the February 27 hearing, Astaphan at a meeting with the members of the commission excluding Mr. Foster who was out of state, held in the lounge at the Parliament building, declared that he would prefer to act for the Commission and advised the Commissioners of the concerns raised by Patterson, adding that, in light of those concerns, he would arrange for other counsel to represent the Prime Minister and the Governor General.
But later that evening, during a telephone interview with HTS Astaphan made “a very partisan presentation in response to statements attributed to the United Workers Party concerning the court proceedings, in which he stated that he, Astaphan, was Counsel for the Commission.
Joseph noted that one of the members of the Commission, Mrs.Leonne Theodore John, had since written to Foster and other members of the Commission by email registering her strong objection to Astaphan acting as counsel for the Commission, since he was “conflicted by reason of having accepted instructions to act for the Honourable Prime Minister and Her Excellency, the Governor General” and also by virtue of his “long standing relationship with the Honourable Prime Minister and your good self Mr. Chairman.”
Theodore-John, according to Joseph, made the point that the Commission had never approved Astaphan’s appointment to act, and requested an urgent meeting to decide on the question of legal counsel to represent the Commission. She also indicated that it was imperative that the Commission received independent legal advice, and registered her very strong objection to any counsel who is affiliated with and/or associated to either political party, or otherwise associated with the parties in the proceedings.
However, at a March 4 meeting a majority of the Commissioners confirmed Astaphan’s appointment.
Joseph maintains in his affidavit that the Commission is not a private person; it is a public body, and is not free to act as it pleases. He said: “It must act in a lawful manner, and is constitutionally bound to act independently and impartially. It is impossible, in the circumstances outlined, for the Commission to retain its independence while being represented by Mr. Astaphan, since the real danger exists that Mr. Astaphan’s personal allegiance to the Prime Minister, his personal and professional relationship with the Chairman (Mr. Astaphan’s name appears on Mr. Peter Foster’s professional letterhead) and his professional duty as counsel of record for the Prime Minister and Governor General, will collide with the duty that he owes to the Commission to advise it independently, impartially and objectively”.