ST. VINCENT: – Vincentians will have to wait longer yet to know the outcome of the court case between the Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace and the Boundaries Commission.
The outcome of the case may possibly determine whether the next general elections, due by March 2011, will be held with 15 or 17 constituencies.
According to the laws of SVG, general elections can be called before the completion of the trial but must be held using the existing 15 constituencies.
Eustace, who is also president of the New Democratic Party (NDP), said on Wednesday, Sept. 29, that the judge has postponed the hearing from Sept. 30 to Nov. 2.
He further raised concerns about lawyer Arthur Williams’ suitability as member of the commission, saying that the former parliamentarian was convicted in the court for misconduct in public office.
Williams who represents Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on the commission, was some 20 years ago, convicted under a NDP administration for receiving freight payment twice for materials his shipping company transported from Trinidad to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“And that is why he was convicted for misbehaviour in public office. … The government dealt with the matter, and he was convicted in a court of law,” Eustace said at an NDP rally in Clare Valley.
“I just mention those things because Arthur Williams is now sitting on the same Boundaries Commission. And I have no confidence that individuals like that will prepare a report that is free, fair, and provides justice for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
NDP supporters protested in Kingstown early Sept. as the Boundaries Commission met notwithstanding the pending court case. The commission has since committed not to undertake further action until the case is heard.
Eustace called on NDP supporters to sign petitions that will be submitted to the judge in support of the NDP’s case.
Parliament in May passed legislation to increase the number of constituencies in SVG from 15 to 17.
The Boundaries Commission, in keeping with the Constitution, met to determine the location of the additional constituencies.
However, when the three-member commission presented it report on July 9, Selwyn Jones who represents Eustace on the commission, did not sign, citing constitutional violations.
The NDP secured an injunction on July 9, preventing the publication of the Boundaries Report and on Aug. 24, Justice Gertel Thom ruled that the injunction be continued until a trial of substantive matters.
Among the substantive issues is whether consultation with the Leader of the Opposition or any other political party is critical when determining constituency boundaries. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
Kay Bacchus-Browne, one of the lawyers representing the NDP in the matter, told reporters in August that the NDP was contending that the Boundaries Commission was not properly constituted.
She said the chairman, Auldric Williams, who represents the Governor General and Arthur Williams acted in the absence Jones.
Bacchus-Browne further said the Williamses divided the country into 17 constituencies rather than simply adding the two that Parliament had approved.
She further said the men did this even before they were sworn in, adding that the NDP will challenge the legitimacy of men’s authority to act, having not yet taken the Oath of Office.