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NLA Chairman says Park’s southern wall is for paid advertising

NLA Chairman says Park’s southern wall is for paid advertising

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The removal of the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) posters from sections of the wall at the Victoria Park, last Saturday, November 27 was not politically motivated.{{more}}

This is the word coming from Murray Bullock, Chairman of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), the body responsible for the maintenance of the recreational facility.

Bullock, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on Sunday, November 28, one day after the NDP accused the government of orchestrating the removal of the posters under police supervision, said that the sections where the posters had been placed along the southern end of the park, is designated for paid advertising.

He further contended that the NLA is currently negotiating with business houses for ads to be put there.

“All of that are advertising areas; there is not a single poster for any other political party placed there,” Bullock explained, saying that the NDP had gone ahead and plastered the area with posters.

When questioned as to who was responsible for summoning the police, Bullock explained that earlier in the day, when the park’s workers had gone to clean the walls, they were “threatened by some hooligans standing out there.”

He said that this occurred sometime in the morning and the police were summoned as a security measure.

But Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace insists that the action was orchestrated by the Prime Minister and leader of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

Speaking at a press conference last Saturday, Eustace said that the removal of the posters was a ploy, as the Gonsalves-led administration was afraid of defeat at the polls on December 13.

“It is clear to me that the Gonsalves administration is afraid; they are frightened out of their wits and are going to extreme actions in order to have their way,” Eustace said.

“The police never did it before, why did they do it now?” he questioned.

“The Prime Minister is responsible for national security and when things like this go on, he (Gonsalves) has to know,” Eustace contended.

“When you really see what is going on and see police protecting as posters are being defaced, Gonsalves has to be aware.”

“The reality is that he (Gonsalves) is responsible and should come out and make the requisite statements,” Eustace said.

He accused the government of having no regard for democracy or the constitution.

“The police officers who were observing the removal of the posters are more interested in stopping ordinary citizens from observing the fact that the posters were being torn down; that is not a democracy; what we have is a dictatorship.”

“Are we moving to a police state?” Eustace questioned.

One eyewitness, Levi Adolphus Cummings, said that he was traveling along the road sometime after 1 pm when he observed what was going on.

Cummings, speaking at the press conference, said that he began taking photographs with his phone.

He said he was told by one of the officers that no parking or waiting was allowed in that area. After parking his vehicle, Cummings said that he proceeded to again take photographs of the posters being removed under the watch of two officers from the Special Services Unit (SSU) of the police force.

Cummings said that he was approached by one of the officers and was informed that he was not allowed to take any photographs.

“I asked why not; as far as I know I can take photos,” Cummings said he responded to the officer.

The New Montrose resident said the officer then grabbed the phone and threatened him.

According to Cummings, the officer told him that he could lock him up and asked him if he knew that he had handcuffs and could “carry (him) and beat (him)?”

“He said ‘for your best interest, just get off the sidewalk’,” Cummings further said.

Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Browne, who was present at Saturday’s press conference, said that such action had the potential of leading to “disorderly conduct.”

She further stated that as part of the freedom of expression in St Vincent, there is nothing wrong with putting up posters unless someone’s private property is being defaced.

“Posters on private property, the owners can ask to take it down. But using force on public property; one eyewitness was threatened: he could have been arrested,” she said.

“There are two major political parties and government should not give precedence to one party over the other,” Browne contended.

She further explained that the NDP is a part of the government.

“According to the Constitution, Mr Eustace is the validly elected Leader of the Opposition and so the NDP they have certain rights,” Browne said.

She called for calm and urged all citizens of the country not to retaliate, as under section 32 of the Representation of the People Act, if violence erupts and the prime minister declares a state of emergency, then the general elections could be postponed for up to three months.