St. Vincent: Former PM comments on ongoing election petition cases

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St. Vincent: Former PM comments on ongoing election petition cases
Sir James Mitchell
Sir James Mitchell

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 1, CMC – The founder of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Sir James Mitchell, has described as “misdemeanours” the alleged irregularities in the 2015 general election that are unfolding in the High Court matter brought by two unsuccessful NDP candidates.

“The question is, also: let me go back to the fundamentals of the petitions. Granted that there are misdemeanours — lovely word, you don’t have to say mistakes, misdemeanours on the part of the supervisor of elections and ultimately on the government, because they’re responsible for everything in the government — are those misdemeanours adequate to convince the judge that it affected the election?

“That isn’t if the misdemeanours convince Son Mitchell …or anybody in your studio. Does the misdemeanours convey to the judge that the numbers were affected?” he told a radio audience, adding that this is for the judge alone to decide.

He said the issues being decided in the petitions are all about the people and what is being debated is “the legal framework within which the people express their opinion”.

The judge hearing the two election petition cases in which the NDC is challenging the results of the 2015 general elections that ensured the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves winning a fourth consecutive term in office, has said he could give a ruling in the matter next month.

“I can safely say before the end of March,” acting High Court judge, Justice Stanley John said.

Benjamin “Ben” Exeter, the NDP candidate, who unsuccessfully contested the Central Leeward constituency won by Sir Louis Straker and Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste is challenging the victory of the ULP’s Montgomery Daniel in North Windward.

Mitchell, a former prime minister, said that Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John, who is the NDP’s lead counsel, should be praised for the work he has done so far.

“If nothing else happens, I will go so far that this is an important milestone in Stalky John’s career. He has exposed irregularities with regard to democracy in St. Vincent and I thank him and he should be appreciated for that along with his team. But he is the one that led the charges and he has exposed irregularities in St. Vincent’s process of election.”

Sir James said that the NDP should take apolitical rather than legal decision regarding appealing the court ruling, should it not be favourable to the party.

“We have now established that we now have irregularities, thanks to Stalky John and them, concentrate, in my view, on the next election, and getting your ducks lined up. Now is the time.”

He said blaming anyone at this stage would not solve the issue and that the concentration should be on “going forward.

“I’m not into the blame game. I am into solutions today and tomorrow… I don’t think it helps democracy in this country. To help democracy, we must deal with the future. This question of blaming and looking in the past doesn’t help you looking towards the future.

“The important thing about blaming is establishing the facts. Did something go wrong? Who did the things wrong? In other words, the important thing is establishing the facts about what is wrong and how you are going to correct it,” he said, adding “the mood of the people for change”.

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