The Court of Appeal heard a reference from the Attorney General on the proper and correct construction of provisions of the Constitution which govern the right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council, popularly known as the Privy Council.
The Attorney General’s position was that unlike the Constitutions of Saint Christopher and Nevis and Dominica, there exist in the Constitution of Saint Lucia, either (i) doubt in the construction of or (ii) an obvious mistake in section 41 (7) (a) of the Constitution, and as a result, the doubt or error ought to be corrected by judicial interpretation in accordance with the law.
If the Court agrees with the Attorney General, the path to determining whether Saint Lucia should continue with appeals to the Privy Council or move towards the Caribbean Court of Justice, will be made clear.
In a surprising turn of events, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Stephenson King, vigorously opposed the Attorney General’s Reference.
Previously and while Hon. King was Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Chairman of the Cabinet, the Cabinet by Conclusion No 371 of 2010 made on the 6th May 2010, accepted that there existed an ‘anomaly’ or error in the very same provisions of the Constitution.
The Cabinet of which Hon. King was part therefore decided to seek the advice from the Court of Appeal on whether a referendum was required. Nothing was, however, done prior to the election.
The Attorney General’s present reference, which was initiated after the General Election by the present Cabinet of Saint Lucia, sought the advice of the Court of Appeal on whether there exists an error or to use the word of the earlier Cabinet Conclusion, an ‘anomaly’.
The Bar Association of Saint Lucia presented two very different submissions. Some members made submissions which paralleled or supported those of the Leader of the Opposition.
In contrast, other Members of the Bar, led by Mr. Hilford Deterville QC, advanced submissions premised on an opinion prepared by the distinguished Caribbean constitutional scholar, Dr. Lloyd Barnett.
Dr Barnett accepted that there was a drafting lapse or printing error which could and should be remedied by judicial interpretation. The Attorney General now awaits the advice of the Court of Appeal.