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St. Vincent: Election petition case resumes with concerns being raised about venue

By CMC

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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb 11, CMC – Attorney Stanley John has expressed concern at the venue being used to hear testimony in the election petition case brought by two unsuccessful candidates of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) challenging the outcome of the 2015 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The case is being heard by Trinidad-born judge, Justice Stanley John, at the conference room of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) building NIS, and the Queen Counsel, who is lead attorney for Benjamin “Ben” Exeter and Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, raised the matter as the first witness, Maia Eustace, began giving evidence.

The attorney told the High Court that when the status hearing took place last month, his clients had raised concerns about the venue and that they had hoped that the matter would have been addressed given that the court itself had also raised some concerns.

In addition, John said that the elevators in the four-story building were still out of order.

Justice John agreed that the case in which the failed NDP candidates are challenging the victories of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) candidates – Sir Louis Straker and Montgomery Daniel – in the Central Leeward and North Windward constituencies in the December 9, 2015 poll, was of interest to the members of the public.

The ULP, led by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, won the polls by an 8-7 margin giving it a fourth consecutive term in office.

But the judge said that while he had no objections to persons standing, subject to the instructions of those responsible for security, he would seek to address the matter during the break.

But the attorney said that the matter is one of utmost concern and that the petitioners would rather if it is addressed immediately.

Senior Counsels Douglas Mendes, who is representing the two ULP candidates, pointed to some vacant chairs in the areas reserved for the lawyers.

Mendes suggested that they can be relocated to another section of the room to accommodate members of the public.

It is not clear why the hearing was moved from the larger and more centrally located High Court building in the capital.

Last month, NDP leader, Dr. Godwin Friday described as “wishful thinking” any suggestion that the party would abandon its court challenge to the outcome of the 2015 general elections.

In 2017, the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, citing bias by trial judge Justice Brian Cottle, reinstated the election petitions and the matter was due to have come up for hearing late last year. But the new judge, Esco Henry, recused herself after setting February 11 as the new date.

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