By Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 20, 2018 – “That is complete garbage. That is just absolute rubbish. It’s political garbage. It is nonsense. It is factually false. It is dishonest. It is a fraudulent piece of documentation and nothing in it has any resemblance to fact,” is how Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan described a malicious news release on Friday morning’s court hearing in the matter between the Attorney General of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Vincent Byron (Claimant) and Leader of the Opposition, the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas.
The news release was disseminated from the St. Kitts-Nevis Times, owned by the Team Unity coalition with significant financing by the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity administration.
Several persons have also indicated that the news release in contention was sent mid-morning from the WatsApp number – 766-0662, which belongs to Team Unity’s political consultant, Mr. Wallis Wilkin.
Mr. Astaphan in an interview with Maurice “EK” Flanders of Freedom 106.5 FM on the popular Issues talk show on Friday afternoon disclosed that shortly after the malicious news release was brought to his attention he discussed it with the Attorney General Hon. Vincent Byron.
“We have completely repudiated that article, and the Attorney General shares my views on that,” Astaphan disclosed.
He told listeners that former Prime Minister Douglas has never denied having a Dominica Diplomatic Passport.
“The government’s allegation was and the premise of the Attorney General’s case was always one of citizenship. Dr. Douglas has denied he applied for and obtained citizenship. In the preparation of his case, his lawyers had discussions with public officials in Dominica who have confirmed that citizenship was never applied for nor granted under the circumstances of the Dominica passport. The case was filed. Dr. Douglas in his very first affidavit admitted using the passport,” said Astaphan.
He said Dr. Douglas used it for personal convenience and business travels. “There were fundamental admissions and statements of fact by Dr. Douglas. One, possession of the passport; two, travel and three that he never had to apply for citizenship or nationality in order to get it.
The Senior Counsel said the defence team ask for information from the immigration cards because these would have been in the custody of the Attorney General and other departments of the government.
Mr. Astaphan said the Attorney General asked for specific disclosure of Dr, Douglas’ passport for inspection.
“The argument arose as to whether the court had authority for specific disclosure. It is a matter of principle. The Election Court in this case has no jurisdiction whatsoever to order specific disclosure of any document other than election document. We made our position very clear that we are not giving Dr. Douglas’ passport to the Attorney General’s lawyers, we are not giving it to the Attorney General, we are not giving it to the Registrar, we are not filing it in the Registry, we are not giving it to anybody,” Astaphan told listeners.
He said however the Defence Team is prepared “and Dr. Douglas will voluntarily provide the number of times he has used the passport, the dates he used it. We are prepared in the interest of transparency and in the interest of full disclosure to hand the passport at the appropriate time to the judge, for the judge to ascertain in his own right, whether the information we have in writing, accurately reflects what is in the passport.”
“The issue of putting it to the judge came from the defence team. The issue of writing and giving the undertaking as to how many times Dr. Douglas used the passport came from us. There is nothing we would want to hide because Dr. Douglas in his first affidavit admitted to using the passport and it is merely to give a complete picture,” said Astaphan.
Astaphan reiterated that Dr. Douglas was never compelled to produce anything. “If he were compelled, we would have fought it as there are numerous authorities from the Court of Appeal about the authority of the Court, but because it concerns the former prime minister, and very likely the next prime minister, we felt rather than let the government’s spin doctors create a picture of trying to hide something, we decided to put the information to the Court in the manner, which we, the lawyers for Dr. Douglas sought fit because every suggestion and proposal submitted by the Attorney General lawyers we rejected,” Astaphan disclosed.
He pointed out that from the Consent Order; the Attorney General has withdrawn the application for specific disclosure.
“We intend to fight this case. We intend to make submissions on the facts of the case and before that we have to submit the expert’s evidence. It was the Attorney General who indicated in one of his affidavits to approach the Court for expert evidence. There was a Consent Order and both sides agreed that expert evidence on the Dominica Law was required. Now the Attorney General wants the Judge to decide that issue. This time we agreed,” Astaphan said.