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Astaphan – Personal attacks will get worse

Astaphan – Personal attacks will get worse

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With General Elections less than a week away, members of the Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) legal team say they are expecting personal attacks on Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to intensify.{{more}}

“If the cricket pitch plays to form, then we expect more of these lies to come out. We expect a campaign of personal vilification to intensify,” Anthony Astaphan, senior counsel representing the ULP, said at a press conference on Thursday, December 2.

“We believe that it (the campaign) is going to get worse with the resurrection of dead and old lies and brand new lies like flies are going to keep coming around and it is important that we deal with them and make you understand the context of why we say what we are saying,” he further stated.

One such issue he anticipates will resurface is the rape allegation brought against Gonsalves in 2008 by Michele Andrews.

“The political leader of the ULP has dealt in the past with allegation of his refusal to respond to a summons because of a complaint filed against him,” said Astaphan.

According to the senior counsel, it was an “absolute and undisputable” fact that there was no summons for Gonsalves to answer, based on two premises.

The first related to the charges at the magistrates’ court. Astaphan said the matter was taken over and discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions because the attorneys representing the accuser refused to provide the necessary evidence.

He also pointed out that the matter was taken to the High and Appellant courts with the same result.

“The result of the Court of Appeal’s decision, which has never been challenged, is that there was no charge or complaint for Dr. Gonsalves to answer at all,” Astaphan said.

The matter was then taken to the Family Court.

Coleen McDonald, President of the Family Court, in her response to Kay Bacchus Browne, one of Andrews’ attorneys, said: “I am authorized by S. 71 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code Cap 125 of the Revised Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to refuse to issue a summons, if in my opinion the application for the summons is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the process of the Court.”

As a result of this decision, Astaphan explained: “The fundamental position, as a matter of fact, is that there was no summons for Dr. Gonsalves to issue, yet the political leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) insists on having himself and his political party portray Dr. Gonsalves as someone who has refused to answer something that has never existed in law.”

The senior counsel provided documentation which had discredited similar accusations brought against the Prime Minister by Margaret Parsons in 2004.

“The allegation was thoroughly investigated by a very senior member of the police, following the investigation and the failure by Parsons to answer very basic questions of the DPP, answers that could have given credit or no credit, and that case was also dropped by the DPP,” Astaphan said.

He said a strategy of personal vilification appears to be the premise of the NDP’s campaign.

“The issues are being swept under the carpet and the vilification of members of the ULP is being raised for target practice by the NDP.”

But Astaphan said that he did not expect the allegations to stop. In fact, he made it clear that he was expecting it to continue.

He contended that although both rape allegations had been resolved and no legal action taken against the Prime Minister, he expected the NDP to continue to raise such issues in their campaign.

“We would find these calculated political lies,” Astaphan said.

“You would recall that Gonsalves took Eustace to court over the authorization of two political ads; Eustace did not file defense and Dr. Gonsalves won.”

“The significance of this, if you’re going to make allegation[s] about somebody when you get sued and challenged, you must bring the evidence,” Astaphan said, adding that Eustace had the time to provide the evidence but did not do so.

“We mention these things to say that we are concerned, but vigilant, and that any attempt to tarnish the reputation of the PM in the course of the election will be resisted and every and any legal option and process available to Dr. Gonsalves will be undertaken,” said Astaphan.

Astaphan said Vincentians should not be surprised if they hear more talk about Parsons and about summons.

Astaphan said the focus of the political campaign is on what has been done by the ULP over the last five to nine years and not on “the broad brush painting of Dr. Gonsalves with lies.”

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