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NDP files injunction against Boundaries Commission

NDP files injunction against Boundaries Commission

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A showdown is expected in court today between the Unity Labour Party (ULP) led Government and the New Democratic Party (NDP) over the Constituency Boundaries Report signed on Friday, July 9, 2010.{{more}} Dominican lawyer Anthony Astaphan, St. Lucian lawyer and former St. Lucia prime minister Kenny Anthony, as well as a team of local lawyers are expected to battle in court today against lawyers representing the Opposition in a bid to quash an injunction filed by the NDP on Friday to block any further action being taken on the Boundaries Report.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Sunday evening, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace stated that a battle is expected, but the Government will have to deal with a substantive case that the NDP will be putting forward.

When contacted on the issue also on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves said his lawyers have advised him that the case is “frivolous”, but added, “I am not a party to the proceedings, so we will just have to wait and see what the courts says.”

But Eustace told SEARCHLIGHT the NDP is not satisfied with the report which is expected to lead to the Government increasing the number of constituencies here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 15 to 17.

“Formally it hasn’t come out, but we know what is in it,” said Eustace.

He disclosed that former Supervisor of Elections Selwyn Jones, who is representing the NDP on the Commission, did not sign the report on Friday, as the Commission rejected all the alternative proposals that he put forward. The Commission is chaired by Aldric Williams, while the ULP is represented by lawyer Arthur Williams. The trio took the oath of allegiance and the oath of office at Government House on Thursday, May 27, 2010.

Eustace mentioned that in the minority report submitted by Jones, he complained that the boundaries were determined even before he attended the first meeting.

“We’re not satisfied with that. We knew that was happening before he got there,” said Eustace.

“He went to two meetings I think, and there was a third meeting and they went to show him the boundaries they were thinking of, and they didn’t know where they [the boundaries] were themselves. They carried him to a wrong place and he had to go and direct them based on what they had written,” said Eustace.

The Opposition Leader stated that there have been adjustments in certain constituencies where new seats are not being created.

“For instance, in my own constituency, though there (are) no seats near to me (which are being created), they have removed the whole of Walvaroo, the whole of the Plan, the area going up to Dorsetshire Hill, which they added on to my constituency in 2005, and a great part of Mala Village,” said Eustace.

“To us it seems like they are gerrymandering for the purposes of trying to make people lose. Rather than getting boundaries based on what the constitution says,” Eustace said.

“Certainly in Mala Village, the boundaries are going to pass through people’s houses, which (is) not in accordance with our constitution,” said Eustace, noting that this and others were reasons why Jones refused to sign.

Eustace told SEARCHLIGHT the Opposition’s legal team filed the injunction because they were not going to take any chances with the Government, which he recalled had the order for a one dollar Grenadines port levy passed over a weekend.

“We were not prepared to let that happen, that’s why we took out the injunction because look at what they did with the one dollar tax over the weekend and come with a new order,” said Eustace.

He said the Opposition is desirous of having a Boundaries Report which it believes should be in accordance with the Constitution of St.Vincent and the Grenadines and not one aimed at a specific constituency or individuals.

Eustace said the Opposition is also concerned that there is no census on which the Boundaries Report is based.

“Our new census is due in a few months time and in addition to that, we really don’t like the idea of the way the cuts were done and the fact that it was done even before Mr. Jones went to his first meeting,” said Eustace.

The Opposition Leader stressed that normally the census determines where boundaries go. He said the population is on the decline. This, he said, was shown between 1991 and 2001 when the last census was held.

“So how you bringing additional constituencies in a declining population?” Eustace questioned.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gonsalves disclosed that the order has not yet been made.

“The injunction that the judge made is for them (the Electoral Office) not to issue the order until further notice,” he noted.

Once the Boundaries Commission submits its report to the Electoral Office, amendments and recommendations will then be enacted accordingly. This will pave the way to make an order to have the provisions of the report made law.

The last constituency review took place in 1986 when two additional constituencies were created: Central Kingstown being one and the other the Southern Grenadines.

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