NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS – Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley, along with Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew, and Attorney General, Hon. Garth Wilkin, have lauded as “historic” the collaboration between the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) and the Federal government, to bring two important pieces of legislation to the National Assembly.
The Nevis Island Administration (Civil Proceedings) Bill, 2023, and the Crown Proceedings (Amendment) Bill, 2023, were introduced by the Hon, Attorney General during the National Assembly sitting on May 25, 2023. The bills were given all three readings, and passed into law. The bills closed a legal gap which arose as a result of an August 2022 decision by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeals that the NIA could not on its own sue or be sued.
Since the court decision was rendered, anyone suing the NIA would have to serve the Attorney General’s Office, however, the bills clarified the position that the NIA had and has the authority to sue and can be sued. Additionally, any civil proceedings on the Administration shall be served on the NIA’s Legal Department, and all documents required to be served on an officer of the NIA as distinct from the Administration shall be served on that officer.
Premier Brantley, Leader of the Opposition of St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly and the elected parliamentary representative for Nevis 9, explained during debate on the bills that the situation created by the Court decision had presented difficulties for both Nevis and St. Kitts, and he commended the Attorney General’s Office for collaborating with the NIA’s Legal Department to rectify the problem.
Speaking on the matter at his monthly press conference on Tuesday, May 30, the Premier said it was a serious matter, and the collaborative approach taken to remedy the situation is a good demonstration of a mature democracy at work.
“On May 25, something very historic happened in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. For the very first time that I am aware, we had bills debated in the national parliament that were as a result of collaboration and consultation between the office of the Honourable Attorney General on St. Kitts and the Legal Department here on Nevis…Both bills were quite short but their significance to the island of Nevis is tremendous…I commend very highly the approach taken by the Honourable Attorney General under the Leadership of Prime Minister Drew and the approach taken here in Nevis in collaborating on this legislation and finding a solution.
“The people of Nevis are better off that this legislation has been passed, Nevis Island Administration- your government- is better off, because there is now certainty, and investors and others who are engaging with the NIA can now have confidence that they can sue and be sued if necessary, and that is the way we know that legal rights are protected, and so this [issue] that had been created by the Court of Appeal has now been resolved by the legislature.”
Prime Minister Drew, in articulating his support for the bills during the debate, highlighted the fact that it was an occasion where the Government and those on the Opposition benches had worked together to resolve an issue that had serious implications for both the NIA and Federal Government.
“I want to say to the people that we promised the people of St. Kitts and Nevis that we will seek opportunities to work with the opposite side when necessary, to put their affairs above political parties, grandstanding, individual agendas, because we must live by what we purport here when we say country above self.
“And I want the people of St. Kitts and Nevis to know that this is really a new day, a better way in which we can conduct ourselves in this Honourable House, where we are really putting the agenda of the people above any individual, party or any other type of agenda…There will always be differences, and bills when there will be differences between both sides, but should we always be antagonistic? Wasting time, money, energy and creating a bad vibes when there’s no need to create a bad vibes, but have the opportunity to create collaboration and to show to our people that indeed our democracy, which will complete forty years this year, is indeed maturing.”
Attorney General, Hon. Wilkin, put on record his thanks to Mrs. Hélène Lewis, Legal Counsel for the NIA and the team at the Legal Department for their cooperation on such an important issue.
“It was pleasure for the Attorney General’s office to collaborate with the Legal Department of the Premier’s Office. We started this process in September last year. We found an interim solution by the issue of fiats to the NIA whenever they were sued, and we are pleased that we’ve reached this point in this Honourable House where we can present long-lasting legislation to resolve the issue that was raised and close that legislative gap.”
The Honorouble gentlemen made it clear that the legislative amendments in no way conflict with the Constitution, as the legislature had taken a constitutionally proper route to fix the legal complication.