The Opposition New Democratic Party of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (NDP) and its supporters rejoiced in the streets of Kingstown on Friday morning after High Court Justice Henry ruled in favour of allowing the hearing of two election petitions initially brought by two Opposition politicians, Benjamin Exeter and Lauron Baptiste over a year ago. This important judgment now allows the Petitions to be heard on their own merit.
Initially, the elections petitions were struck out by Justice Cottle in April 2016 based on a technicality, having accepted the submissions by lawyers for the government that they were filed improperly. However, The OECS Court of Appeal sitting in St. Lucia reversed Justice Cottle’s decision noting apparent bias and ruled that the case be returned to the High Court in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
After a long hard fought legal battle waged by the NDP’s legal team, headed by Queen Counsel, Stanley John, the judgement by Justice Henry delivered on Friday, June 30, 2017 rejected an application by the governing party to strike out the petitions as invalid. This ruling allows for the Election Petitions to be heard in open court.
The NDP is confident that the evidence to be presented will be overwhelming and will show that the electoral procedures in at least two constituencies on December 9th, 2015 were violated resulting in a general election that was not free and fair according to the country’s Representation of the People Act.
In a statement released on Friday Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party Hon. Dr Godwin Friday expressed his deep level of satisfaction with Justice Henry’s ruling:
“We have waited long for justice, and today those wheels of justice are beginning to turn again. Today’s judgement is a win for all Vincentians. It is a judgement in favour of democracy and the spirit of the people.
The Petitions will be heard on their own merit. This is good for democracy. This is good for good governance. But most importantly this is good for our own value of ourselves as a people.
It is good because it reaffirms that our rights and the will of the people are greater than mere legal technicalities outside of the real issues at stake. We are not cogs in a wheel; we are not pawns, we are not pieces of a puzzle, we are real people, with real desires and ambitions and will. The expression of our will should never be denied, neither by the efforts of any agent and certainly not by mere legal technicalities.
Law exists to help societies imagine and become their very best. Law does not exist for its own sake.”
Dr Friday also spoke further on the improper and disturbing actions of electoral officials noting that they must be held accountable for their actions:
“The evidence will be available for everyone to see, and I trust that those responsible for what took place in Central Leeward and North Windward on December 9th, 2015 will be held accountable for their actions.
Accountability seems to be a word and concept that causes a lot of heartaches and sleepless nights for the leadership of the ULP Mal-administration these days. Too bad for them, that’s not my concern. My responsibility as your Party Leader and as Leader of the Opposition is to represent the best interests of all Vincentians and to ensure that this ULP Mal-administration is answerable to the people. The people are the ones who hold all the power in their hands. It has always been that way despite what some people in high offices may think, and we must insist in our words and by our deeds that it remains so.
The foundation of every democracy is free and fair elections, and we all know that the general elections of December 9th, 2015 were anything but, free and fair.”
A trial date for the election petitions will in due course be finalized by the High Court registrar. Dr Friday assures the people of this country that the New Democratic Party is ready to govern and looks forward to fresh elections and a legitimate mandate from the people:
“The New Democratic Party is prepared to chart a new course, a better path and a bright and prosperous future for all Vincentians. We will never give up on our mission. Against all odds we will persevere and be victorious. Let us unite and build a nation that we can be proud of always, where the government is accountable to the people and where good governance becomes a way of life and, so, restores prosperity for all.
We go forward with the legal battle, but we can clear the air of doubt about the 2015 elections by calling fresh elections now! This is what the people want!”
The NDP will continue to push its message of hope and to fight for a better SVG where the rights of our people are respected and their voices heard.