By Candia Dames
4th May 2005
Bringing an end to more than a year of legal troubles, The Privy Council ruled on Tuesday that the Court of Appeal erred when it determined that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal of Holy Cross Member of Parliament Sidney Stubbs against his bankruptcy order issued by a Supreme Court judge.
"The [Judicial Committee of the Privy Council] thereafter assumed to itself all of the powers exercisable by the Court of Appeal and decided to hear my appeal on its merits," said Mr. Stubbs, who spoke at a news conference held at the office of attorney, Valentine Grimes, one of the MPís advisors.
Mr. Stubbs also said, "The court found that the adjudication order was bad on the face of the record as the debtor summons was not severed within the time limited by the rules.
The order of bankruptcy was set aside. The lordships also made a further pronouncement that I may now take my seat in parliament."
Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Raynard Rigby, who also attended the press conference, told reporters that Mr. Stubbs is expected to return to the House of Assembly as early as Wednesday after the Speaker of the House has been formally notified of the Privy Councilís ruling.
Mr. Stubbs, who had remained silent throughout the legal ordeal, indicated on Tuesday that he was relieved that the matter is finally behind him.
"It was a humbling experience," he said. "Iím not a gushy person so I can only say that I am happy that itís over and Iíd like to thank God that itís now behind me."
Mr. Stubbs also expressed gratitude for the support he said he got as he fought the bankruptcy order issued by Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Thompson in March 2004.
"One of the things that sustained me through my year-long ordeal is the good graces and support of the people of Holy Cross," he said.
"I have gone to households in all 10 polling divisions and also in the new area, Hope Gardens. Iíve spoken to members of the Holy Cross communityÖNever once was the question ever raised by the majority of people of Holy Cross that Sidney Stubbs should go."
He acknowledged that there were detractors in Holy Cross who wished to see him lose his seat, but he believes that the majority of his constituents were hoping and praying for an end to his legal troubles.
Mr. Grimes indicated that the technical issues involving the case and the ruling will be made public by Mr. Stubbsí legal team when it returns from London.
It was on the basis of Mr. Stubbsí appeal before the Privy Council that the House of Assembly in March granted the MP an additional six months to pursue his bankruptcy matter.
The extension came after a previous one that was granted last September expired.
Just last week, Supreme Court Justice Sir Burton Hall annulled Mr. Stubbsí bankruptcy order after determining that the MP had come to a satisfactory scheme of arrangements to pay his creditors.
Those creditors included Gina Gonzales, Felix Bowe and Colina Insurance Company.
There had been some people, particularly those in opposition, who had been bracing for a bye-election in Holy Cross.
Last week, FNM Leader Senator Tommy Turnquest explained to reporters that the reason why a map was hanging on a wall inside the partyís Mackey Street headquarters was to remind the FNM on a daily basis that it is poised to recapture Holy Cross if an election were called.
The FNM also went as far as nominating former Holy Cross MP and FNM Chairman Carl Bethel as its candidate for a bye-election.
Mr. Bethel, for his part, ran advertisements advising Holy Cross constituents to register to vote.
During debate on a resolution to grant Mr. Stubbs a six-month extension last September, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham had said that the government was seeking to raise a "dead corpse" and he advised the Christie Administration to bury its dead and move on.
But government officials insisted that Mr. Stubbs had a constitutional right to appeal and were intent on helping him fight the bankruptcy order, which came after a series of debacles, he had been involved in.
On Tuesday, Mr. Stubbs also thanked Prime Minister Perry Christie and PLP Chairman Raynard Rigby, and many others, for their unwavering support throughout his ordeal.