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OAS will not testify in NDP election petitions

OAS will not testify in NDP election petitions

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No member of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission to the December 2015 general elections will testify in court in relation to the election petitions filed by the New Democratic Party (NDP).

The NDP had filed an application on March 3, requesting that the High Court issue a summons for Melene Glynn, a member of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission, to return to St Vincent and the Grenadines to testify in the election petition filed by NDP candidate Benjamin Exeter.

However, the OAS has written to Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell, a member of the NDP’s legal team, requesting that the application to have Glynn testify be withdrawn.{{more}}

“We kindly request that this petition be withdrawn in consideration of the privileges and immunities of the OAS and of Ms Glynn in her capacity as a duly accredited member of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission,” an email from Sarah Davidson Ladly, attorney in the OAS Department of Legal Services said.

Ladly’s email, send on May 4, said the OAS and its General Secretariat enjoy certain privileges and immunities granted by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, including immunity from judicial proceedings.

“As such, the General Secretariat of the OAS, its staff, and the duly accredited members of its Electoral Observer Mission may not be compelled to provide testimony in a court of law,” Ladly said.

“With this in mind, there seems to have been a misunderstanding regarding Ms Glynn’s availability to provide testimony in this case. Ms Glynn was present during the General Elections in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as an accredited member of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission and therefore enjoys the privileges and immunities extended to the General Secretariat and to the designated and duly accredited members of its Electoral Observation Mission pursuant to Article VIII of the Agreement Between the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States Regarding the Privileges and Immunities of the OAS Electoral Observer Mission for the 2015 General Elections in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Accordingly, the OAS may not send Ms Glynn, or any other member of the Observation Mission, to provide testimony regarding their work as members of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission.”

Ladly said the OAS understands the importance of a democratic electoral process and may provide the High Court of Justice with a copy of any of its publicly available documents, including the final written report of the Electoral Observation Mission to St Vincent and the Grenadines, which includes Glynn’s and other members of the Observation Mission’s observations.

That report was released earlier this month.

On March 11, 2016, a local newspaper published that Glynn had agreed to return to St Vincent to testify in the election petition case filed by Exeter at the request of the NDP.

According to the newspaper, lawyers representing Exeter made the request following the filing of the election petition.

“But, there is one crucial hurdle to overcome before Glynn can return to this country to give evidence at the hearing, the request must come from a State authority,” the newspaper reported.

The newspaper report said that Exeter’s lawyers applied for the court to issue a witness summons directed to the OAS, requiring Glynn to give evidence at the petition trial and that Barnwell had submitted an affidavit in support of the application.

According to the newspaper, in her affidavit, Barnwell stated that she went to Jamaica, where she met with Glynn and made the request.

“She further states that Glynn contacted her by email, confirming her agreement to testify. ‘I have consulted with the Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO) and with the Chief and Deputy Chief of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission to St Vincent and the Grenadines. I am advised that yes, the OAS is liable to provide testimony related to the work of its Electoral Observer Missions. A request for such testimony would have to come from a state authority – for example, the judge before whom the matter is being heard’,” the newspaper reported Glynn’s email as saying.

The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines requested the General Secretary of the OAS to send an OAS electoral observation mission for the December 9, 2016 general elections; Glynn was a member of the observer team and she attended the final count of votes on December 10 at the Layou Police Station for the Central Leeward constituency election; among the critical issues in dispute in the course of the election petition proceedings is whether Exeter and/or his representatives made any objections or challenges at the final count.

At a meeting of the NDP at Sion Hill on Wednesday night, representative for West Kingstown Daniel Cummings said that there was no longer any need for a member of the OAS observation mission to come to testify, as the OAS had put their findings in the final report.

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