The hearing of the election petitions filed by New Democratic Party (NDP) candidates in the December 2015 General Election, Lauron Baptiste and Benjamin Exeter, will go forward, after High Court Judge, Justice Esco Henry ruled in favour of the Petitioners.
Justice Henry delivered judgement in the matter of the application to strike out the petitions that were brought against Sir Louis Straker, Montgomery Daniel and the Supervisor of Elections.
In delivering her judgement at the High Court in Kingstown, Justice Henry said she found no grounds on which to strike out the election petitions, and as such the case will now go to trial.
The Respondents had found fault with the recognizances given by the petitioners.
But according to a report by Searchlight News, lead attorney for the petitioners Stanley John QC, told reporters the judge ruled that while the recognizances filed by the petitioners were insufficient, they were not invalid. He said the petitioners have been given until July 7 to pay $5,000 to the High Court registry so that the case can proceed.
“The respondents had challenged the validity of the petitions. They had gone to the court and asked the court to strike the petitions out because the requirement that the petitioners should gave security by recognizance was not done properly and that it amounted to an invalidity and the petitions should therefore be struck out. The Court did not agree with that. The court indicated that in the first place, …bringing the applications as they have done amounts to an abuse of the courts process because they had two distinct applications on the record. And the court also held that the application have come out of time, because the recognizances are not invalid even though they may be insufficient,” Stanley John QC said.
NDP Candidate for Central Leeward, Benjamin Exeter said he feels elated by the judgement delivered today.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters outside the Court House in Kingstown this morning following the hearing of the case, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and a lawyer for the Respondents, Senator Carlos James said its basically back to square one regarding the election petitions and it is unlikely that a resolution of this case will come soon.
“The court has ruled but we have to be aware that this is just back to square one, there are other matters before the court which we ought to consider. For instance we have asked the Court of Appeal to revisit its judgement in relation to the matter which was before Justice (Brian) Cottle referring to the Court of Appeal. That is still to be determined. So it’s really back to square one in terms of the legal process. We are neither here nor there where these petitions are concerned,” Senator James said.
“So we may not necessarily see a finality of this matter anytime soon.”
“We are making some applications to the Court of Appeal with respect to the issue of waiver and also the issue of cost in relation to the first hearing. But in relation to this judgement we obviously will consider filing certain submissions to the Court in respect of the application,” Senator James added.
Justice 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.
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.
In the Meantime, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves speaking via telephone on the Shakeup programme aired here on WEFM assured the Vincentian public that “the government continues…this doesn’t affect the functioning of anything. There is a legal process and the legal process will take its course.”
He pointed out that “two judges have held different positions on the same matter”.
The Prime Minister said the actual written judgement of Justice Henry has not been given yet, but when it becomes available, the lawyers representing the Respondents will study it and advise accordingly.
He also said that the Respondents lawyers are in consultation with a Senior Council Douglas Mendez of Trinidad and Tobago whom he described as “a very esteemed lawyer.”
Prime Minister Gonsalves further noted that the ULP is a duly elected government, and which the Caricom Observers, Commonwealth Observers, and Organization of American States (OAS) said that the election was free and fair and reflected the will of the people.
He explained that “it is not the first time we will have legal challenges. People made legal challenges about elections all the time.”