ST. VINCENT: – The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is calling its supporters to a “peaceful protest” in Kingstown on Thursday, August 2, amidst an announcement that the Boundaries Commission will meet despite an injunction prohibiting the publication of its July 9 report.
NDP president and Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace said on radio Wednesday night that the Boundaries Commission will accept the changes his representative, Selwyn Jones, had initially proposed.
Parliament in March decided that the number of constituencies in SVG should be increased from 15 to 17, ahead of general elections due by March 2011.
But Jones did not sign the Boundaries Report on July 9 and the NDP filed an injunction against its publication, charging that the other two commissioners did not follow the legal procedures.
The NDP is wary of the meeting on Thursday, saying that if the changes are accepted, then the new report can be gazetted and Parliament dissolved, paving the way for general elections in 17 constituencies rather than the existing 15.
The NDP opposes increasing the number of constituencies here, which was among proposals that voters rejected in a proposed revised constitution last November. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
“We are saying people must come out and show their dissatisfaction with this matter, there is reason for the boundaries commission to meet. We have an injunction there. What other reason can they have for meeting? And the injunction is there until such time until the constitutional motion is heard by the court. So, this is just a way to try and circumvent the decision of the court,” Eustace said.
The High Court on August 24 granted a continuance of the July 9 injunction until the substantive issues are tried.
The court would decide if the Boundaries Commission contravened Section 38 of the Constitution when it increased the constituencies without considering the latest census.
Among the other substantive issues is whether consultation with the Leader of the Opposition or any other political party is critical when determining constituency boundaries.
Lawyers for the NDP say the Commission was not properly constituted because Auldric Williams, who represents the Governor General and Arthur Williams, who represents the Prime Minister on the commission, acted in the absence of Jones, the Leader of the Opposition’s representative.
They say the two commissioners divided the country into 17 constituencies rather than simply adding the two that Parliament had approved and that the men did this before taking the oath of office.
Lawyer Linton Lewis, who is chairman of the NDP and a candidate in the upcoming general elections, said these issues will have to be addressed even if the Commission accepts Jones’ proposals.
“Those factors are still very much alive and those are factors upon which the application is based,” he said on radio Wednesday night.
Eustace said the meeting on Thursday was being orchestrated by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government headed by Dr. Ralph
“People must come out and show their dissatisfaction with the action being taken by this government. I am not dealing with the Boundaries Commission members. They are acting on the instruction from the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They won’t start up that by themselves,” Eustace said.
But Gonsalves, speaking at his Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) political meeting Wednesday night, said that the Justice Gertel Thom, in her August 24 ruling, had said the work of the Boundaries Commission was incomplete.
He said that as a lawyer, he believes that the Commission can continue its work, adding, “The judge said that until the report is published, the commission is still alive.”
Gonsalves said the NDP was trying to delay the elections.
“They want to play for time to see if they can block the 17 seats,” he said, adding that his party will be returned for a third term in office regardless of the number of seat to be contested in the elections.
“Fifteen or 17, is licks like peas,” Gonsalves said.