PM Harris: True Separation Of Powers Enriches Democracy

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (SKNIS) — Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris announced that his administration has made the true separation of the Legislative and Executive branches of government a policy priority.

This he disclosed less than one week after last Monday’s judgment by the Privy Council setting out the reasoning for its decision on 12 February 2015 to order that the election, which took place on 16 February 2015, was to be conducted using the “old boundaries”.

The Prime Minister was at the time making a presentation at the first sitting [last Thursday, May 14] of the National Assembly to open the 2015 – 2020 session of Parliament. He said, “in democratic traditions, there are three well-known arms of the government. The Executive, broadly speaking that is the government, the Judiciary represented by the headships of our Courts and of course the Parliament. Each of them deserves their space so that they can function properly and we are committed to ensure that the national assembly is treated no less, so you would have adequate space.”

In a landmark ruling, the Privy Council concluded that the January 16, 2015 dissolution of the National Assembly by Governor General Sir Edmund Lawrence, on the advice of former Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, “occurred before the impugned proclamation was made. Accordingly, the proclamation, if valid, did not govern the election which followed that dissolution.” The Privy Council said the appeal [by the then opposition coalition Team Unity] “raised important constitutional questions” about the process by which the previous administration sought to change the constituency boundaries. Those questions are: “(i) whether, if there were a deliberate attempt to exclude the review by the courts of the Constituency Boundaries Commission’s report, that attempt was unconstitutional because it was contrary to the rule of law, and (ii) whether the publication of the impugned proclamation in the Gazette after the grant of the interim injunction was unlawful and therefore of no effect.”

Many persons in civil society have questioned whether the precipitous decision by the head of the legislative branch to prematurely end the debate on the important boundaries resolution that was being ill-advisedly shepherded through the National Assembly by the then minority administration, was in any way influenced by the head of the executive branch to the disadvantage of the parliamentary majority here and the detriment of democracy everywhere.

The separation of powers, a cornerstone principle of good governance and also the rule of law, divides the institutions of government into three functionally separate branches: legislative, executive and judicial.

In speaking to the need to strengthen the legislative institution so that it could better serve the aspirations of the people, Prime Minister Harris said, “we want to get to that level of development in our parliamentary democracy where the institution is treated in an ennobling way so that our lives can be enriched as a result of that participation.”

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