Photo above: Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace.
By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Apr. 4, (CMC) – A High Court judge, today, denied a government application to throw out the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) election petitions.
The NDP is contesting the results in Central Leeward and North Windward following the December 9 general elections. The two seats were won by the ruling Unity Labour Party of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
The ULP won the general elections by an 8-7 margin to secure a fourth consecutive term in office. But the NDP contended that the polls were not free and fair, claiming that the design of some ballots were defective and disenfranchised voters.
“Well, he’s refused the application but he has said that if the matter is raised in the hearing of the petition, our arguments will succeed,” attorney Grahame Bollers, a lawyer for the government, told reporters following Justice Brian Cottle ruling.
Asked about the logic of the decision, Bollers replied, “well, we respect the decision of the court,” noting also that he has not had a chance to read the entire judgment.
But Kay Bacchus-Browne, a member of the NDP’s legal team, also told reporters that she had not had a chance to read the judgment but welcomed the ruling.
“I am going to read the judgment. I haven’t had the chance to read it as yet,” she said, adding that the judge had no choice but to strike out the government’s application.
“We knew he couldn’t grant it. We wasted a lot of time when we knew, upfront we made the submission, that this application was wrong.
“I don’t know why we wasted all this time when we knew we had to come back to square one,” she added.
NDP vice president and the parliamentary representative for the Northern Grenadines constituency, Godwin Friday, who is also a lawyer, reserved comments on the judgment.
“It is as counsel just said, but we have to read the judgment and then take advice from counsel,” he told reporters.
“Well, we have a political and legal strategy going forward. The political strategy is informed by the legal, but that continues,” he said, in relation to the ongoing protests being staged by the NDP and its supporters against the election results.
NDP leader, Arnhim Eustace, was among the small crowd of NDP supporters gathered near the Central Market, across the street from the court building, when the judgement was handed down in chambers.
He was later briefed on the court ruling by attorney, Sherlan “Zita” Barnwell.
Eustace did not comment to the media on the ruling saying he was going to meet with the NDP’s legal team.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is slated to make a statement to Parliament, tomorrow, about the elections.
The NDP has been boycotting meetings of the National Assembly since the December vote.
Friday, however, declined to say whether NDP legislators will attend Tuesday’s meeting of Parliament, telling journalists “wait and see”.