By: Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 21, 2019 – Former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas scored a major victory in the Dominica Diplomatic passport case.
The government took Douglas to court, seeking a declaration to have him disqualified from being a member of the National Assembly on the grounds that he had contravened Section 28 1. A of the constitution of St. Kitts and Nevis.
But in an hour-long 28-page judgment, His Lordship Mr. Justice Trevor Ward QC ruled that unlike an ordinary Dominica passport which is issued only to citizens who owe prior allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica, the diplomatic passport maybe issued to no residents and non-residents who owe no prior allegiance to Dominica.
Justice Ward noted that Dr. Douglas “was not required to and took no oath or affirmation of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica in order to obtain the diplomatic passport.
“Indeed, the evidence before me is that the executive policy has deliberately not imposed a reciprocal duty of allegiance on the holder of a diplomatic passport even though the state offers its protection to the holder when abroad. I find that the special and distinct policy regime carved out for the diplomatic passport is of significance. It must mean something that the executive has deliberately not required any oath or affirmation or other demonstrable sign of allegiance or residence required as a condition precedent to the issuance of the diplomatic passport,” said Justice Ward.
Justice Ward further ruled that Dr. Douglas is not a natural born or naturalised or registered citizen of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
“He was not and is not resident in Dominica; he did not apply for and did not obtain Dominican citizenship,” said Justice Ward.
“I find that under Dominican law the diplomatic passport accords the protection of Dominica to the defendant (Dr. Douglas) when travelling to countries other than St. Kitts and Nevis, however under Dominican law this does not place the defendant under an acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence,” the judge found.
Justice Ward in his 138-pargraph ruling also found that on a proper construction of Dominican law, “no reciprocal duty of allegiance is owed by the holder of a diplomatic passport who is not a citizen of Dominica.”
“In my view where the state accords its protection to the holder of a diplomatic passport but deliberately refrains from making a demand for reciprocal allegiance or in the absence of the existence of actual allegiance, the mere possession and use of a diplomatic passport does not create allegiance, adherence or obedience to the Commonwealth of Dominica under Dominican law,” Justice Ward said.
“I find further and it has not been contradicted (by the Attorney General) that the defendant (Dr. Douglas) obtained the diplomatic passport solely as a gesture of political and professional courtesy extended to him in his capacity as a former prime minister and current leader of the opposition,” Judge Ward ruled.
“Accordingly, I hold that under the Dominica Law the voluntary act of acquiring and using a diplomatic passport by a non-citizen does not place the holder under an acknowledgment of allegiance or obedience or adherence to the Commonwealth of Dominica within the meaning of section 28 (1)(a) as this is not an act that manifests the conscious exercise of the Defendant’s will, acknowledging the obligation and obedience to the Commonwealth of Dominica,” Justice Ward stated.
“To hold otherwise on these facts would be to disqualify the defendant because he is entitled to the benefit or privilege of protection owed to a citizen of Dominica when he travels abroad although he has not in clear terms acknowledged that he has wilfully transferred allegiance to the Commonwealth of Dominica. As stated earlier in this judgment, S.28(1)(a) does not contemplate as a disqualifying factor to the fact that a person may be entitled to the benefits of a foreign subject or citizen as the Australian model does,” he added.
“For the foregoing reasons the claim is dismissed,” Justice Ward ruled.