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Election petitions should be determined on merit – lawyer

Election petitions should be determined on merit – lawyer

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The recently reinstated election petitions should be determined on merit.

This sentiment was expressed by Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, one of the lawyers for New Democratic Party election petitioners, Benjamin Exeter and Lauron Baptiste, during a press conference yesterday at Democrat House.

“…the aim really, because of the high public interest, is that a case should be determined on the merit. It means that the petition should be heard, because we have a very strong and powerful petition in both of the constituencies, North Windward, as well as Central Leeward and it should be determined on its merits,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.

The lawyer also stated that she does not know what the respondents have to hide, since they are so sure that everything is ‘above board’.

“I don’t know what it is the respondents have to hide why they would challenge our right, which the law gives us, to see the ballots, to examine and inspect the ballots. We are also saying that if the

respondents are so sure that everything is above board, why are they so adamant that we should not see those boxes and we should not be able to inspect the ballots?” Bacchus-Baptiste asked.

She stated that the legal team for the petitioners are now preparing for trial.

Bacchus-Baptiste added that if the respondents wish to bring their application to strike out the petitions again, they are free to do that.

“We are very confident that should this matter go back before a court on an even playing field, we shall prevail on the issue of whether the surety is good or not. We are very confident about that… we will prevail on that point.”

Bacchus-Baptiste stated that she is confident that their case will prevail, since the Representation of the People’s Act (RPA) states that petitioners should sign the surety.

“Bearing in mind, of course, that what the petitioners did when they signed that surety is what the RPA rules told them to do. So you have one rule saying that the petitioners should sign and another one saying you should sign on behalf of the petitioners. That’s what really happened. But we are confident that we will prevail if it goes back to the court.”

Lawyers for the respondents (supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay; successful Unity Labour Party candidates Montgomery Daniel and Louis Straker; returning officers Vil Davis and Winston Gaymes; presiding officers Veronica John and Kathleen Jeffers) had filed an application for the petitions to be struck out, on the grounds that they had not secured the right sureties for the petitions.

“I am just throwing this out to the respondents; let’s get to the merits of the matter. If you are so sure of your case, let us get to the merits of the petitions… let us have those ballot boxes examined and the ballots examined,” she said.

Also speaking at the press conference president of the NDP Dr Godwin Friday said that at this point the general election of 2015 still has not been settled.

“The general elections of 2015 have still not been settled in the Central Leeward and North Windward constituencies, but as many of the problems that were identified there, were reported elsewhere. The elections remain under question,” Friday stated.

He noted that while they will still carry on their legal battle, there are also political solutions to the issue.

“We will continue with the legal struggle, but there are also political solutions to this problem and we will call on the Government to do so, in accordance with what the Court of Appeal said, expeditiously.”

Friday thanked the petitioners’ legal team, namely: Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, Keith Scotland, Maia Eustace, Zhinga Horne – Edwards, Sherlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell, Sharron Cummings and Andres Coombs.

“They were all part of the team that was pushing and maintaining the legal fight going and they really deserve our thanks and we owe them a deep debt of gratitude. We cannot thank them enough for all the work that they did, from brinigng their skills and experience, their time and sometimes their treasure, on behalf of the petitioners Exeter and Baptiste and indeed, it’s a debt that the entire country I believe owes to them.”

He also thanked the persons on the “Front Line”, for keeping the public focused on the petitions.

The elections petitions filed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the application by the respondents to have them struck out have been reinstated by the Appeals Court.

At a sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) on Tuesday, March 7, justices Gertel Thom, Mario Michel and Davidson Baptiste ruled that there was the appearance of alleged bias on the part of High Court judge Brian Cottle, who had ruled in June 2016 that the petitions be struck out.

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