ROSEAU, Dominica –Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says he remains focused on the development of Dominica and is confident that lawyers representing the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP) would deal competently with the treating case a magistrate has now set to be heard on May 13.
Chief Magistrate Candia Carrette-George, in an April 6 letter addressed to attorney Cara Shillingford, said she had received the relevant Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Order and that the case has been set for 9.00 am (local time) on May 13.
Last month, the Trinidad-based CCJ dismissed an appeal filed by Prime Minister Skerrit and other DLP candidates, reinstating summonses issued for them to appear in the Magistrate’s Court on a charge of treating – that is, directly or indirectly providing food, drink, or entertainment to a person, during or after an election, to influence that person’s vote corruptly.
The CCJ found that proceedings for treating in the Magistrate’s Court were not brought to determine the validity of someone’s membership to the House of Assembly, but to try someone accused of committing an offense, and therefore hearing a treating case before a Magistrate did not offend the sole power of the High Court to determine questions of membership of the House of Assembly.
The three persons who brought the court action -Mervin John Baptiste, Edincot St. Valle, and Antoine Defoe, who recently died, claimed that the offense was committed when the DLP hosted two free public concerts in Roseau before the elections.
Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, who is leading the defense for the DLP members, has said he believes the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should intervene in the prosecution of the case, as has been done in other Eastern Caribbean jurisdictions such as St. Kitts and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Speaking on his weekly television program on Sunday night, Skerrit said that “these are matters I leave in the hands of lawyers.
“We have our lawyers, and our lawyers will deal with this matter,” he said, telling viewers that he has ‘recognized” that the attorney Shillingford “has indicated by way of writing to our attorneys that she is not representing the complainants in this matter.
Skerrit said that the DLP lawyers have written to the complainants “one has been evasive, he does not want to be served with the letter, and the other was served.
“If you are taking somebody to court, you should be the ones to shake the court to meet….and we are the ones asking for the evidence. Bring the evidence to us so w could have discovery and so on, and we can rumble in the courts.
“This does not put me out; I am focused on the challenges facing the courtly and improving the lives of Dominican people,” he added.