BU has been able to persuade one of its legal eagles to look at the public domain documents filed in this case and to make notes. The action is brought against Mia Mottley in her capacity as chairman of the BLP (First Defendant) and against Jerome Walcott in his capacity as general secretary of the BLP (Second Defendant).
Affidavit of Maria Agard
· Agard states that she is the MP for Christ Church West elected February 21, 2013.
· She has, until recently, been a member of the incorporated association known as the BLP from about August 1998 up until she received a notice of expulsion November 23, 2015, during which time she has continuously been a member of the Christ Church West branch.
· During 1998 to 2005, Agard served variously as Vice President or President and was president from 2007 to 2009. In 2008, she was assistant campaign manager. In 2009, she served as assistant general secretary. In 2010-11, she was second vice president of the BLP.
· The constitution of the BLP mandates that day to day business is managed by the Executive Committee elected at the annual conference, of which the party chairman and executive committee report and are answerable to the `National Council.
· The National Council comprises 52 members (s.43 of the constitution), one member from each constituency branch, one from each zone, one from the League of Young Socialists and one from the Women’s League, nine who comprise the Executive Committee, one who is secretary to the Parliamentary Labour Party, a maximum of seven co-opted members, two trustees nominated by the Party Chairman and ratified by the Council. Members serve for one year and can be renominated and re-coopted annually. The present Council contains many individuals who were in the previous council whose term ended October 31, 2015 and who continue to serve.
· In 2013, Agard contested nomination for Christ Church West, which was adversarial with many members who supported the losing candidate displaying hostility towards Agard. Agard expected this hostility to diminish over time, but it has not and questions of Agard’s adequacy are constantly raised.
· On February 25, 2013, Agard attended a meeting of the National Executive Council where she defended her stewardship. She complained that the executive of her branch had gone to the press independently February 20 and 21, 2015 to criticize her stewardship.
· A separate meeting with the National Executive Committee was also held where Agard was accused of attacking Ms Lisa Jugganauth, the president of the Christ Church West branch at a National meeting in February where she had aired her concerns about the hostility directed towards her. The Second Defendant, Jerome Walcott, stated that he was concerned about the intensity of her presentation and that at the next meeting, Agard would be required to apologize to Jugganauth, which Agard refused to do.
· The agreement at the meeting of February 25 was that no one would speak to the press. Before daybreak, however, Barbados Today reported the story in terms detrimental to Agard, including the refused instructions given in a closed-door session of the National Executive Council.
· Many of the attending members are still on the Council and Dru Symmonds and Winston Stafford, who remain members, stated at the National Council in Agard’s presence that she ought to apologize to Chairman Mottley and to the Council for matters to be mentioned later.
· Following the annual conference of October 24 and 25, 2015 where Chairman Mottley stated that she would resolve the issue of Christ Church West, hand-delivered correspondence to attend a meeting October 29, 2015 was received by Agard October 27. Agard requested further particulars and, since none were forthcoming, assumed that the meeting would be with Chairman Mottley and the 11 members of the Executive Committee.
· Due to her professional commitments and her inability to reschedule patients and get to the meeting for 17:30, Agard e-mailed Patricia Parris, the executive secretary to Chairman Mottley at 14:20 and so advised her, which was acknowledged by Parris in writing at 16:45. Agard followed this up with a courtesy text to both Parris and Chairman Mottley advising as follows:
Good Afternoon. There has been some complications of surgery that will delay me until 7:30-8:00 p.m. I am therefore unable to attend the meeting scheduled for today as intended. Please advise me on an alternative schedule for the said meeting. I am sending this by text because the email which I sent to Patricia Parris this afternoon has not yet been answered. Regards Maria Agard.
· Agard later discovered that there were 20 people at the meeting with whom she had no relationship and several of whom were hostile to her and had little, if any, connection with Christ Church West branch. Agard states that she is informed and verily believes that Chairman Mottley, in a report given by her to the National Council that night, have her reasons for inviting these additional people (both members and non-members) that she wanted the widest consultation possible. Chairman Mottley omitted to invite Agard’s Constituency Assistant, the past VP and the past secretary, both of whom had stated that they would not work with an executive hostile to Agard.
· By letter dated November 02, 2015, Agard was again summoned to a meeting for November 04. Agard replied to Chairman Mottley by letter dated November 03 advising that, despite the short notice, she would be attending with senior members, viz. George Payne QC and Ronald Toppin.
· When Agard arrived at BLP headquarters at 16:50 on November 04, she was left to wait an extended time and at least, since Chairman Mottley had not appeared nor any of the members of Christ Church West, Agard and her company concluded that the meeting must have been cancelled by Chairman Mottley without notice to Agard. And this supposition was confirmed the next day by letter from Chairman Mottley, who advised that the meeting had been sent to Agard by email, but had not been received by Agard. Agard advises that attempts were made to deliver the cancellation letter to her at her office, however, being a Wednesday, Agard’s office was closed. Agard speculates that Mottley took objection to her being accompanied by the two members of the BLP.
· Agard then touches on the strife at Christ Church West, saying that she had tried for 3 years to resolve this, but that relations had broken down completely as of 20 September 2015, the night of the annual general meeting of the branch. During this, the process of election of an executive commenced under Cynthia Forde MP. Individuals had been nominated and seconded and the nominations closed upon motion that was carried. Agard was advised that over 60 persons had cast votes. However, while the voting was in progress, Patricia Parris, Chairman Mottley’s executive secretary arrived and announced that Chairman Mottley had instructed that the elections be shut down and declared that any votes cast were null and void, stating that Chairman Mottley had attributed her actions to voter irregularities. The presiding officer tabled a motion to suspend the election, which was carried upon the vote of Cynthia Forde and the meeting suspended to September 27.
· Agard did not attend the September 27 meeting, but states that it was presided over by Jerome Walcott. After Walcott had called the meeting to order, he opened the floor for nominations. New nominations were made, accepted by Walcott and it was declared by Walcott that the persons nominated were elected unopposed. Agard took legal advice and was advised that the new executive was not legally elected since no nominations should have been taken as the voting process should have been continued from where it was previously left off. Agard notes that the votes cast at the suspended meeting were not preserved nor were they taken into account.
· On November 12, 2015, Agard received a letter from the General Secretary of the BLP the subject of which was “Disciplinary Charges”. The letter invited Agard to what she considered to be a disciplinary hearing and advised that she could be represented by legal counsel of her choice. The letter went on to state that the National Council was charging her with breaches of discipline and an attachment set out nine charges under s. 81 (c) and (d) of the BLP constitution. Agard retained the services of Mr Hal Gollop QC and Ms Lynette Eastmond and she attended the 22 November meeting accompanied by them.
· There were about 40 people in attendance chaired by Chairman Mottley. Among the attendees were persons who had previously exhibited bias against Agard and openly and publicly condemned her. In addition, Agard asserts that Chairman Mottley had previously expressed to her her negative views about Agard. Specifically at a National Council meeting of October 08, 2015, Chairman Mottley “berated” Agard, saying, in effect, that she had better not hear a peep out of Agard and that Mottley would be using a whip since the whip was the only thing that some people understood. Also, Mr Indar Weir said at the same meeting that Agard’s correspondence to Jerome Walcott should have been followed by a letter of resignation. It was rumoured that Weir was interested in contesting the Christ Church West seat. Weir was present at the disciplinary meeting. Agard notes that Jerome Walcott had authored a report to the BLP Annual Conference that was condemnatory of Agard as an MP. Agard also notes that there were some members of the National Committee who had been “continued” and had heard Walcott’s report. It was also rumoured that Walcott himself was a likely candidate for Christ Church West after the removal of Agard. Dr Richard Cheltenham QC has also present and had already expressed the view at a meeting of October 29, 2015 that the BLP should seek another candidate for Christ Church West in a timely manner.
· Also present was Jugganauth and her presence was challenged by Agard on the basis of its constitutionality.
· Agard asserts that Jugganauth had stated publicly that she would not work with Agard and had held constituency events from which Agard was excluded. As an example, Jugganauth had claimed credit for housing obtained by Agard for a homeless constituent and had openly challenged Agard on this at the September 20 meeting.
· Agard drew this perceived stacked deck to the attention of her counsel and they undertook to raise the point.
· Agard and counsel were informed that the meeting would be recorded and were instructed to surrender their mobile phones. Lynette Eastmond was refused the use of her laptop, while at least one member of the committee continued to use theirs.
· Chairman Mottley provided counsel with a list of rules that she said would govern the conduct of the meeting. Agard asserts that under the BLP Constitution, no such rules exist and counsel stated that these appeared to be ad hoc rules hastily put together.
· Chairman Mottley then convened the meeting, not giving Agard adequate time to discuss these rules with counsel nor for counsel to discuss them amongst themselves. Mr Gollop QC objected on the lack of reasonable notice, stating that 5 minutes notice could never be construed as reasonable.
· Chairman Mottley went on, stating that it was not a court of law and that only a limited period of time would be allowed for counsel to present Agard’s case.
· Despite the fact that Mr Gollop had advised that he and Ms Eastmond were representing Agard, Chairman Mottley insisted on addressing Agard directly thus ignoring Agard’s right to an advocate during the proceedings.
· Mr Gollop submitted to Chairman Mottley that as the National Council was responsible for bringing the charges against Agard, it could not at the same time sit as adjudicator and that such an action would constitute a flagrant breach of the rule of bias which enjoined that no one could be a judge in one’s own cause. Mr Gollop presented case law and offered to make copies of same available to the Council. Chairman Mottley bluntly refused to accept such copies. She in effect said that members of the National Council were incapable of understanding the law and the cases which supported Mr Gollop’s position. Agard asserts that she considered it unfair to her to be heard before a panel which Chairman Mottley herself had admitted was incompetent to understand legal issues. Indeed, Agard asserts that Chairman Mottley’s response suggesting that the persons present were not competent to understand legal issues was an attempt by her to arrive at her own unilateral decision. Mr Gollop reminded Chairman Mottley that the jury in a court hearing is constituted of ordinary people, not lawyers.
· Submissions having been made by counsel, Chairman Mottley announced a break during which they would be considered in the absence of Agard and her counsel. On returning, Agard and her counsel were informed by Chairman Mottley that the submissions had been noted but the Council would continue its deliberations nevertheless. Counsel replied that he took that to mean that the submissions were overruled.
· Mr Gollop then submitted that the charges against Agard could not be heard as suggested. Agard notes that there were 9 charges against her, to be heard bin groups of 3 simultaneously. Counsel expressed the opinion that all the charges had different particulars attached and the procedure mandated by Chairman Mottley would lead to an absurdity. Agard and counsel were, once again, requested to leave the room and, upon returning, Chairman Mottley made a similar ruling that the Council had noted the concerns of counsel, but intended to proceed.
· At this point, counsel, on behalf of his client, declined to continue on the basis that there was no assurance that Agard could be accorded a fair hearing before an unbiased tribunal and that Agard would withdraw from the process.
· On the evening of November 22, 2015, Agard discovered for the first time through the media that she had been expelled from the BLP, the Council and Chairman Mottley not having done her the courtesy of communicating their decision to her until the morning of November 23. The night before, November 22, press and public had been made aware of Agard’s expulsion by Chairman Mottley.
· Agard states and has exhibited a report of the announcement of her expulsion in the Nation of November 24 by Chairman Mottley who appeared to read from a printed script such as to create the impression that the decision was made, inter alia, after hearing statements from both Agard and her counsel. Agard states categorically that she made no statement at any time.
· Agard’s affidavit is sworn November 27, 2015.
Amended Statement of Claim
· A declaration that the National Council of the BLP while acting as a quasi judicial body in the disciplinary hearing of 22 November 2015, while under a duty to observe the rules of natural justice, failed and/or refused to accord Agard due her under the rules of natural justice.
· In the premises, therefore, the decision to expel Agard was unlawful, void and of no effect and Agard remains a member of the BLP pending determination of her appeal to the Party Conference.
· A declaration that the events of 22 September 2015 leading to the expulsion of Agard disregarded the Agard’s right to a fair hearing.
· A declaration that the decision to expel Agard in her absence was a breach of her rights to a fair hearing.
· A declaration that the events of 22 November 2015, the decision to expel Agard was an unlawful and/or unreasonable exercise of discretionary power.
· A declaration that Agard is due to enjoy all rights and privileges as a member of the BLP pending determination of her appeal to the Party Conference.
· An injunction to restrain the BLP through its officers and/or other agents from expelling Agard or in any other way acting in a manner that might adversely affect her rights as a member of the BLP and MP for Christ Church West pending determination of her appeal to the Party Conference.
· Further and other relief deemed fit by the Court.
Statement of Particulars
(a) A resolution was passed by the National Council of the BLP at its meeting of 12 November 2015 that in exercise of the powers vested in it under Rule 81 of the Constitution of the BLP the Claimant [Agard] should be charged for breaches of discipline in accordance with Rule 82 of its Constitution. Nine (9) charges were preferred in a Schedule.
(b) The nine (9) charges were drafted by the General Secretary (the Second Defendant herein) who sat as a member of the National Council adjudicating at the said hearing which was presided over by the First Defendant herein.
(c) The `members sitting on the National Council at the hearing were members of the same council that passed the resolution to prefer charges against the Claimant.
(d) The Claimant and Counsel took the decision to withdraw from the hearing as it appeared futile to remain in light of the Claimant’s intention to proceed in the same unlawful manner, even after objections had been raised by Counsel, namely the National Council’s failure to observe the rules of Natural Justice and the absence of procedural propriety.
(e) The Claimant later heard of her expulsion through a radio news item later on the night of 22 November 2015.
So there you have it. It amazes BU that we are able, anonymous as we must remain, that we are able to bring this information to the electorate, while the traditional press, untrammelled by the need for anonymity, has declined to obtain copies of what are public domain documents filed before the courts and against the publication of which no causes of action for defamation can be advanced.