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Regional Court reinstates claim against St. Lucia PM

Featured St. Lucia's Prime Minister Allen Chastanet St. Lucia's Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
CASTRIES, St.Lucia, Jul. 7, CMC –The main opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has welcomed what it described as “the significant and important decision” of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal to reinstate a claim against Prime Minister Allen Chastanet alleging breach of trust and misfeasance in public office.

 The case had previously been struck out by a judge hearing the case, however that ruling was overturned in court earlier this week.

In December 2013, the attorney general filed a claim, that was amended on in January 2014, against Chastanet, then a government minister and Kenneth Cazaubon, the former chairman of the Soufriere Town Council, in which several allegations were made.

It was alleged that Chastanet ,while a government minister and a candidate for the United Workers Party (UWP) in the 2011 general elections, requested , advised, received, permitted or acquiesced public funds of the Council for the purpose of a campaign and political event for his person and political benefit of the UWP.

Those funds were raised by the government for specific community projects.

It was also alleged that Chastanet knew or ought to have known or was recklessly indifferent to the fact that the conduct in question was unlawful and that, as a consequence, he acted in a manner that amounted to a breach of his fiduciary duties as a minister of government, bad faith and/or misfeasance in public office.

The court of appeal the funds were deposited into the Council’s account and were paid out of that account.

Chastanet filed an application to strike out the entire claim filed by the attorney general on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the claim in so far as the attorney general lacked standing to pursue the claim.

That application came on for hearing on December 5, 2014 – on that same day, the attorney general sought and obtained leave to further amend her pleadings.

In April 2015 the attorney general further amended the statement of claim so as to assert the government’s ownership of the monies.

No defense or amended defense or additional affidavits were ever filed in reply to the further amended statement of claim.
The judge found that the attorney general did not have standing to bring the claim and struck it out on that basis and also ordered costs against the attorney general.

The attorney general, dissatisfied with the decision, appealed on several grounds.

In a judgment, the Court of Appeal held that High Court judge, Justice Belle, erred in dismissing the application against Chastanet without first having a substantial hearing with evidence on the merits.

The Court of Appeal also found that even though the High Court Judge had given leave for the Attorney General to amend her pleadings, his decision was based on the original pleadings which were legally no longer before him.

Justice Belle had also ruled that the Attorney General did not have legal standing to file.

The Court of Appeal judgment has also cleared the way for the case against Ezechiel Joseph to proceed to trial as this had been put on hold pending the Appellate Court’s ruling.

The SLP says the issue was never about individuals but instead about the safeguarding of public funds, the issue of good governance, the fiduciary obligation of public officers, especially ministers to treat with public funds in a proper manner and the abuse of office by public officials including ministers.

“We are acutely aware that one of the defendants against whom serious allegations have been made is now the Prime Minister of St Lucia. No doubt the temptation may be great for him to simply discontinue the matters. We would caution against such action and, therefore, call on Mr. Chastanet to allow the matters to proceed unhindered,” the SLP said in a statement.

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