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Judge to deliver ruling on NDP election petitions today

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This morning, Justice Esco Henry will deliver her long awaited decision on an application to throw out election petitions filed by two candidates of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the December 2015 general elections.

Henry had reserved her judgement after hearing arguments on May 2, 4 and 5, 2017 from lead lawyer for the respondents, senior counsel Anthony Astaphan and lawyers for the petitioners, Queen’s Counsel Stanley ‘Stalky’ John and Kay Bacchus-Baptiste.

Last month, the judge reminded lawyers that it would take some time to review the entire case, after which she would send her ruling in writing to both parties.

Speaking with reporters in May, shortly after Henry’s reserved her judgement, senior counsel Astaphan said he believed that the judge would take her time in making her ruling, because her decision would be a difficult one.

A release from the NDP advised that the High Court Registry had announced on Monday that a judgement would be given today at 9 a.m. at the Court House in Kingstown.

“The Court’s decision is of great interest to all Vincentians, at home and abroad, as it will help to determine finally the outcome of the 2015 general elections. We must rely on our justice system to do its work impartially and in accordance with our tradition of democracy. We are very hopeful that the results will be favourable to the petitioners, so that the petitions can finally be heard on their merits. The cases help to defend our right to free and fair elections in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,” the release from the NDP said.

“I am aware that Vincentians have waited patiently for the decision of the Court inthe petition. We all look forward to Friday morning. The New Democratic Party will continue to do the bidding of the people and do all that is necessary to promote and protect democracy in our country,” said Dr Godwin Friday, president of the NDP. 

He added, “I will be at Court on Friday morning with many other supporters of the NDP and of democracy to receive the judgment of the court.”

The NDP has brought two petitions challenging the results in Central Leeward and North Windward in the December 2015 general elections, after the Unity Labour Party (ULP) won the elections by taking eight of the 15 parliamentary seats.

Meanwhile, the ULP is holding that the petitions are invalid because the petitioners, rather than the sureties, have signed the recognizances.

In 2016, Justice Brian Cottle threw out the petitions, ruling that they were improperly filed. However, a ruling of the Court of Appeal of the the East Caribbean Supreme Court restarted the entire court process, after they upheld an appeal by the NDP that there was apparent bias on the part of Justice Cottle.

The petitioners in the matter are candidates for the NDP Lauron Baptiste and Benjamin Exeter, while the respondents are supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay; successful ULP candidates Montgomery Daniel and Sir Louis Straker; returning officers Vil Davis and Winston Gaymes; presiding officers Veronica John and Kathleen Jeffers.

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