While calling for the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet has described the matter brought against him by the Speaker as “political malice.”
A ruling of the High Court noted Francis did not have the authority to undertake that procedure.
Francis, last year, had cited Chastanet for making derogatory remarks concerning sitting parliamentarians Richard Frederick and Dr. Ernest Hilaire. Subsequently, he referred the complaints to the Committee of Privileges in an attempt to take Chastanet to task.
However, this January, a high court ruled in favour of Chastanet, stating that, the Speaker (Francis) did not have the authority to “refer to the Committee of Privileges any complaint made by a Member of the House of Assembly against another Member in respect of privilege or contempt.”
“The situation with the Privileges Committee Saga came to an end …with the conclusion of the court case,” explained Chastanet at a media briefing Wednesday. “It is important to appreciate that the conclusion was one of consent, meaning that both parties agreed to the order in every aspect of it.”
He said what effected this “unfortunate and damning situation” for Saint Lucia, was having a Speaker in the House who made it abundantly clear “that he (Francis) was going to come after the opposition.”
Adding fuel to the fire of this debacle, Chastanet said the Speaker had earlier indicated that “he (Francis) used the term that he was going to use a bazooka to come after the members of the United Workers Party (UWP).”
The Micoud South MP said that with much information available worldwide, yet “to have gotten it so wrong, begs the question (as to) whether this was political victimization or whether this was truly a person that was ignorant of what he was doing.”
In assessing the case, Chastanet adds that he and his legal team concluded that “the Speaker was heading in the wrong direction …and the Speaker was either deliberately (misguided) or just did not know (that) what he was doing was wrong.”
While the opposition leader and his legal team were concerned about the court not having to interfere in parliamentary matters, he said the line was drawn and they had to step in “when persons’ civil liberties are being breached or anytime that the parliament is not following its own procedures that then would affect the individual rights of anyone.”
In hindsight, says Chastanet, had the Speaker taken in the legal advice to halt these proceedings “then maybe this would have been cured at that point.” However, he said, it appears that the Speaker did not get any legal advice on the matter or rather “chose to advise himself.”
Chastanet contends that rather than he (Francis) taking heed of the letter that was sent to him, he “decided to double-down on the letter.” And, added the Micoud South Member of Parliament, it was only after the Speaker decided to proceed with the matter “that we were left with no choice but to take the matter to court.”
The UWP Political Leader recalled that after a four-hour debate by his legal team, the court ruled that “the Speaker did not have the authority to prevent the case from proceeding …and it was a further misunderstanding on his part as to the authority that the only entity that could prevent the Privileges Case from proceeding, would be parliament.”
In summing up the matter, Chastanet said, “both parties chose to agree on what the outcome of that case should be.”
He argued that the procedure was tainted with “political malice”, and this issue was intended to embarrass him and his UWP crew.
Insinuating that the matter has spilled over into political diatribe, Chastanet called for the resignation of the Speaker. He declared: “The only remedy to this situation, is that the Speaker ought to do the right thing …after embarrassing and undermining the reputation of the parliament of Saint Lucia and the country despite all the advice that he had been given and he chose to ignore, causing the state to have to spend unnecessarily in these very difficult times…he should resign.”