At a press conference held at the Office of the Opposition Leader on Tuesday July 9th, Moses Jn Baptiste, Parliamentary Representative for Vieux Fort North, announced that the Opposition Leader, Philip J. Pierre, had written a letter to the Governor General, Sir Neville Emmanuel Cenac, advising him to revoke the recent appointments of the members of the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission.
It was reported by Jn Baptiste and later confirmed by Pierre, that the Leader of the Opposition received on May 2nd, a letter from the Prime Minister dated April 30th, informing the Opposition Leader of the Prime Minister’s intention to recommend three individuals to the Public Service Commission and three others to the Teaching Service Commission effective May 1st. Pierre stated that he received a second letter from the Prime Minister on May 2nd which was also dated April 30th, informing him of the Prime Minister’s intention to appoint Cyrus Reynold as “Chairman of the Public Service Commission and as a member and Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission respectively, effective May 1st 2019 until November 9th, 2019.”
In response to the Prime Minister’s letter, Pierre claimed that he noted the Prime Minister’s intention to advise the Governor General to appoint said individual to the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission, and indicated that he had received the Prime Minister’s letter on 2nd May, 2019. Pierre said that he was astonished when he afterwards discovered that the names of the proposed members of the two Commissions had been published in the June 17th issue of the Saint Lucia Government Gazette. In regards to the Prime minister’s letter to the Opposition Leader, Pierre remarked, “The consultation undertaken by Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, was a sham and a mockery of the requirements of the Constitution.”
In the letter to the Governor General, the Opposition Leader pointed out a section of the Constitution of Saint Lucia. That part of the letter read, “Section 85 (1) of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, SI 1978 No 1901, makes it mandatory for the Prime Minister to consult the Leader of the Opposition before tendering any advice to the Governor General for the Purposes of appointing members to the Public Service Commission. Likewise, section 92 (1) of the Constitution also makes it mandatory for the Prime Minister to consult the Leader of the Opposition prior to tendering advice to the Governor General to appoint members to the Teaching Service Commission.”
Pierre reiterated that he was informed on May 2 nd of the Prime Minister’s appointments which were made effective on May 1st, 2019, which was also a Public Holiday. In light of the above, the Opposition Leader has urged the Governor General to revoke the appointments of the members of the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission “at the soonest and ensure the re-appointment of new members in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution.” Pierre advised that unless this revocation is undertaken, “Any appointments, transfer or act of discipline, decision or other action taken by the Commissions would be unlawful and unconstitutional.”
Pierre declared that if the appointments are not revoked within twenty-one days, he would have no alternative other than to approach the High Court for Declarations that the appointments to the Public Service Commission and the Teaching Service Commission are “unlawful, void, unconstitutional and of no effect.” Pierre added that it was unreasonable of the Prime Minister to expect him to respond to appointments after they had been made effective. He remarked, “This is absolutely ridiculous. It has never happened before. That has never happened before in the governance of Saint Lucia, never. This is unprecedented; this kind of disrespect and arrogance.”
The Opposition Leader affirmed that he had no issues with the appointed members of the two Commissions, but rather what he described as the Prime Minister’s disregard of principles in making the appointments.
A journalist raised the issue of the appointment of a certain Minister’s wife to the Teaching Service Commission and asked why her appointment would cause a conflict of interest. To this the Opposition Leader replied, “We’ve never questioned anybody’s wife, we’ve questioned the prudence, the transparency and the appearance of these appointments; that’s all we’ve done.” Pierre again stressed that the issue was not with the persons who were appointed, but with the entire Commission. “The process of consultation did not happen,” he said.
On Wednesday July 10th, Nancy Charles, Administrative Attaché to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, stated, “The Prime Minister is not able to comment on the matter until the Governor General has consulted the Aegis Chambers about this issue.” She added that it is the Governor General who makes appointments and not the Prime Minister. Charles also noted that the Prime Minister wrote to the Opposition Leader only to inform him of the Prime Minister’s intention to recommend persons for the two commissions. In reference to the response of the Opposition Leader to the Prime Minister, Charles stated, “The Opposition Leader responded by saying, ‘I note your intention’ and ‘Please note that your letter was received on the 2nd.’ There was no indication in the response of the Opposition Leader that he did not have enough time to consider the Prime Minister’s recommendations, or that he disapproved of it.”
Charles said that just because the Prime Minister’s letter to the Opposition Leader indicated that the appointments were to be made on May 1st does not mean that they had been made before the Opposition Leader had received the Prime Minister’s letter. “The appointments could be made retroactively, effective May 1st,” she said. She further stated that based on Pierre’s response which did not indicate anything beyond his noting of the Prime Minister’s recommendation, that the appointments were made thereafter by the Governor General, effective May 1st.