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Whither goeth the NDP?

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Tue, Sept 25, 2012

Editor: The New Democratic Party (NDP), a mass political party that once held all of the fifteen elected seats in Parliament, may be everything but proactive. Since the December 13th, 2010 General Elections, the Leadership, members and supporters of the party have been on a daily basis in whatever forum possible, calling for fresh elections; but one may ask the question: Are they really ready for a General Election or are they reliving the folk tale THE BOY AND THE WOLF?{{more}}

They appear to be so laissez-faire in any and everything, that often even their most ardent supporters and well-wishers wonder if they are serious about taking the reins of Government. The following examples will suffice:

1. The failure of the Government to rehire the three teachers who left their jobs to contest the December 13th, 2010 general elections on behalf of the NDP, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement between the Government and the Teachers Union is yet to be challenged by the party and the three teachers are left hanging in limbo.

2. The voting in Parliament on the 29/12/2010 by the Attorney General Judith Jones Morgan, a Public Office appointee Attorney General, contrary to Sec. 41(3) of the SVG Constitution Order 1979, which states: “The reference to the members of the House in Sec. 30(4) of this Constitution, subsection (1) of this section shall not include the Attorney General if he is a member by virtue of section 24(3) of this Constitution. “

The Speaker of the House, contrary to Sec. 42 (1) and (2) sought the legal opinion of Dr Francis Alexis of Grenada. That opinion was delivered in the House in September 2011. The Leader of the Opposition stated there and then that he would respond to Dr Alexis’s opinion. To date there has been no response.

3. In March of 2011, all members on the Opposition benches in Parliament were manhandled and tossed downstairs by the constabulary, comprising members of the Prime Minister’s security detail, on the advice of the unconstitutionally elected Speaker. Some of them sustained injuries and had to be taken to (MCMH) hospital, with the Hon. Daniel Cummings, the Member for West Kingstown, having to seek medical attention in Trinidad for injuries sustained to his back. To date there has not even been a statement made from the leadership of the party.

4. The arrest and charge for perjury of Senator Vynnette Frederick, on 12/09/2012, contrary to the course of natural justice, as is expressed in the words of her own father 88-year-old Bayliss Frederick, when he said in the SEARCHLIGHT of 14/09/2012: “There is a matter before the Appeal Court right now; a matter in which she took the Prime Minister to court for the very subject of this perjury thing. The evidence to support her case to the Appeal Court that they are alleging now is perjury for which they have arrested and charged her. You cannot, while a matter is ‘sub judice’ in the Appeal Court, go and take action at all. But they have defied that rule and charged her for the very subject matter which the Appeal Court, if it pronounces in her favour, these charges will automatically evaporate.”

To date, nine days and there has not been a formal release from the leadership of the party, except to hear it being said in some quarters and by the Senator herself that her arrest is a “distraction of politics”.

For the NDP to simply dismiss the arrest of their fellow Parliamentarian and Senator under the circumstances as outlined above as an act of ‘distraction politics’ is indeed pathetic. Indeed, there are many options open for the NDP; foremost among them is a boycott of Parliament to force the Government to resign and call fresh elections. The odds are in favour, with the NDP in a one-seat majority Parliament. They missed this and one day the wolf will surely come.

WHO ORDERED THE ARREST OF SENATOR FREDERICK?

While the NDP appears to be naïve in the arrest of their Senator, Senior Counsel, Anthony Astaphan, defense lawyer for Prime Minister Gonsalves is making good on his promise. Speaking on the ruling ULP political party radio station STAR FM, the SEARCHLIGHT of 08/06/2012 quoted Mr. Astaphan, thus:

“‘This is something we have to take very seriously. Although we won the appeal and the matter is at an end, we are seriously considering raising the matter with the DPP, because it must have constituted a criminal offence. We are also thinking very seriously of taking the matter up with the Attorney General, with a view of disciplinary proceedings instituted against Vynnette Frederick for that sort of behaviour… We cannot allow lawyers who are politicians or politicians who are lawyers to deliberately mislead the court in material aspects, in order to try to score a victory in the court for political gain. It is an unacceptable crossing of the line.’”

In SEARCHLIGHT of 18/09/2012, captioned: NO POLITICAL BENEFIT FROM PROSECUTING FREDERICK – lawyer Astaphan said: “There is no political benefit or capital involving prosecuting someone who can never win a seat in any constituency, in any election … There is no evidence whatsoever by the executive branch of the Government in giving directions to the police and the DPP… Williams presented a formal complaint and full information and documents to the DPP. I think he (DPP) passed it on to the police or some other lawyer in his office. I think according to Richard, he did not think he should deal with this personally or directly. That’s my understanding… Some prosecutions are required to set an example to masses that if the masses are not going to get away with conduct like that, their lawyers should not either… because I think there is a higher obligation on a lawyer to come with the utmost clean hands… When a lawyer does something that the High Court criticizes, I think the prosecution authorities need to raise an eyebrow and take a second look.”

CONCLUSIONS

It has become customary to hear lawyer Anthony Astaphan on STAR FM, a political radio station, owned and operated by the ruling ULP administration, castigating and quite often maligning those against whom he has defended PM Gonsalves and/or the State and those who are generally politically opposed to PM Gonsalves. Mr Astaphan knows, or ought to know, that whenever he appears here in our local Court as part of the prosecution team that he is being paid by the taxpayers of this country, not by Dr Gonsalves. Taxes have no political sides. All pay taxes. Mr Astaphan is obligated to respect the wishes of the Vincentian public, whether he likes it or not. He must also realize that whenever he comes to St Vincent and the Grenadines, his stay here is a privilege, not a right; hence he has to be mindful of his utterances as it relates to our local politics. For a Dominican national, as part of a prosecution team in our court, to appear on a politically owned radio station to make the statement: “There is no political benefit or capital involving prosecuting someone who can never win a seat in any constituency, in any election”, is rude, disrespectful and out of place. If ever Vincentians should unite as a people it is on this. If we continue to allow our divisive politics to divide us, many of us would become aliens in our own land.

It is quite clear that Astaphan has been the prime mover in the arrest of the Senator for the purpose of political posturing, when he said among other things: (1) “There is no evidence whatsoever of any political involvement by the executive branch of the Government in giving directions to the police or the DPP.” (2) “I think he (the DPP) passed it on to the police or some other lawyer in his office. I think according to Richard, he did not think he should deal with this personally or directly.” (3) “When a lawyer does something that the High Court criticizes, I think the prosecution authorities need to raise an eyebrow and take a second look.”

From the above, neither the High Court nor the DPP charged or instigated a charge against Senator Frederick, but Astaphan has made good on his promise of 08/06/2012 to have Senator Frederick charged criminally and be disciplined.

THE BALL IS IN NDP’S COURT

The arrest of Senator Vynnette Frederick is no ‘straw’, but rather the plank that has broken the elephant’s back. The ball is in the NDP’s court. The meddling of Anthony Astaphan into our local politics, to the extent of having their Senator arrested and charged criminally, has presented the NDP with a golden opportunity to consecutively boycott the next five sittings of Parliament, thus forcing PM Gonsalves to call fresh elections within the next 6-8 months, or face the consequences of recurring by-elections for the balance of the life of his administration. Demonstrations and road block revolutions with their attendant casualties will not do it.

Matthew Thomas

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