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A double blow was served to the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) campaign concerning the early release of convicted drug man Alex Lawrence in the space of two days earlier this week.

Following a press conference last Friday where Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves dismissed the controversy over Lawrence’s release as “manufactured,” last Monday night, on his popular public information television programme, “The Law and You”, former Attorney General and New Democratic Party (NDP) stalwart Parnel R. Campbell, QC said that he found nothing strange or alarming about the early release of the prisoner.{{more}}

“If a Prime Minister says that he acted on grounds of national security in advising the early release of a prisoner on a drug conviction who had a mere 3 3/4 months to serve, that is good enough for me,” Campbell said.

Accusing Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace of politicizing a matter of national security even though he knows the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves revealed in Parliament last Tuesday that someone very close to the NDP was involved in the matter.

He said that Attorney-at-Law Vynette Frederick, the NDP’s Public Relations Officer has been Lawrence’s lawyer. Dr Gonsalves said that as far back as May 2006 Frederick was seeking, on Lawrence’s behalf, his early release from prison “on account of matters which clearly relate to national security.”

On “The Law and You” programme, Campbell read out the law concerning the operations of The Mercy Committee in St Vincent and the Grenadines and stated that in October 1992 he chaired a meeting of the Mercy Committee in the stead of then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell who was absent.

“At that meeting October 21, 1992, the Mercy Committee recommended the early release from prison of 15 prisoners on the grounds of National Security,” Campbell declared.

The prisoners released, whose identities were not divulged had convictions for a wide range of offences including rape, incest, arson, and breaking and entering. One released prisoner, sentenced to 20 years for rape served only 11 years and 28 days. Those persons were all released from prison on the same day, November 8, 1992, Campbell stated.

He added that during his tenure on the Mercy Committee no fewer than 17 persons who had been

convicted of either murder or manslaughter were released prematurely, “for reasons, including national security,” he said.

Staying true to form, Dr Gonsalves said that he would not be bulldozed into revealing information which he knows will damage the security of the nation. Quoting excerpts from Campbell’s programme, Dr Gonsalves said that during his time in the opposition, he never questioned prisoners’ early releases under the NDP administration.

“I simply accepted that the responsible authorities acted responsibly, particularly when it did so on the grounds of national security,” Gonsalves said.

When contacted Frederick said she had no comment on the issue and would make a statement next week. Meanwhile efforts to contact Eustace proved futile.