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We need a fresh debate on delivery of justice in SVG – Opposition Leader

We need a fresh debate on delivery of justice in SVG – Opposition Leader

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PRESIDENT OF THE New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace said on Monday that a fresh debate needs to be had about the dispensation of justice in St Vincent and the Grenadines and what is seen by many ordinary Vincentians as the corruption of the system by undue political interference.

Eustace’s comments were made yesterday on Nice Radio, {{more}}amidst discussions on allegations of sexual misconduct by host of the NDP’s New Times radio programme Igel Adams.

Adams, 63, who hosts the radio programme on Nice Radio, was detained on Friday, October 28 by the police that he had had sexual intercourse with her daughter.

Moments before Eustace’s statement, Adams himself issued a statement on radio, proclaiming his innocence and announcing he was stepping aside as New Times radio host until the investigations were concluded.

Eustace said that he had listened to Adams’ statement and he also spoke to him over the weekend.

He said that he under- stands and agrees with Adams removing himself from the programme, as he fights vigorously to clear his name.

“We understand and appreciate that he will dedicate his time and effort in that regard in the coming period. We make no judgement on Mr Adams’ guilt. Indeed, at this time, there is not even a charge laid against him; he is entitled to the presumption of innocence until a charge is laid against him and is heard in a court of law,” said Eustace.

Eustace said that allegations of this nature are always traumatic, as the alleged victim suffers the pain, fear, shame and trauma associated with the alleged event and its aftermath. He stressed that families are also affected, as those accused have their lives interrupted until the allegations can be fairly dealt with in a court of law.

The NDP president said that while a court of law is supposed to deal with matters of this nature, persons are beginning to question the law when it comes to dealing with certain persons.

“This very serious issue demands a commensurate response from all concerned that is just, fair and impartial and it is in this context that I wish to comment on the larger matter here, that is the fundamental question about the fairness and impartiality of the justice system in this country,” said Eustace.

The Opposition Leader brought up an incident that took place on September 24 at a town hall meeting in Brooklyn, New York, when Miranda Wood, a Vincentian residing in New York accused Gonsalves of behaving inappropriately to her in his office when she was 15 years old, over 32 years ago.

“Miss Woods’ allegation of sexual assault is only the most recent of several allegations of sexual assault and rape that have been made publicly against Dr Gonsalves,” said Eustace.

He noted that in January 2008, Michelle Andrews, a female police officer on security detail at the Prime Minister’s residence, alleged that Gonsalves raped her on the compound in the early hours of one morning.

Eustace also noted that in January 2003, one Margaret Parsons, a Canadian human rights lawyer, alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Gonsalves in the Prime Minister’s Office when she was visiting on business.

Bringing the local judicial system and police into question, Eustace said, “It is a matter of public record that the latter two allegations were actually filed as court cases by the alleged victims and it is also a mat- ter of public record that these cases were quickly dismissed by this country’s Director of Public Prosecutions before they could actually be heard in a court of law.

“It is also a matter of pub- lic record that despite the fact that there is no statute of limitations on rape or sexual assault in St Vincent, Dr Gonsalves was never at any time requested or required by the police to present himself for questioning.”

Eustace said that at the time of the accusations, Gonsalves was the Minister responsible for the entire apparatus of the police, national security and justice and was therefore in a situation of “pure conflict of interest,” from which he ought to have stepped aside, as any decent leader- ship concerned with justice, fair play and impartiality would have demanded nothing less.

“In relation to that particular matter, Jomo Thomas, who is now the Speaker of the House, was on record as stating that if he ( Jomo), or anyone else for that matter, had been accused of sexual assault, the police would have taken them away and he wondered if justice had two faces in St Vincent and the Grenadines”.

Eustace stressed that if an ordinary Vincentian was accused as Gonsalves was, the matter would have been followed up by the police and the person may have very well been where Adams was over weekend. “The lesson for all of us in these matters is that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done, no mat- ter who is involved.

“We must use this development to open a fresh debate about the dispensation of justice in St Vincent and the Grenadines and what is seen by many ordi- nary Vincentians as the corruption of the system by undue political interference,” said the Leader of the Opposition.

A number of callers expressed solidarity with Adams, while agreeing that the police should investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct, no matter who the accused person is.(LC)

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