ST. VINCENT: – The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines said late Saturday afternoon that it was examining its legal options after police supervised the removal of its elections posters from the walls of Victoria Park in Kingstown.
The ULP will officially launch its candidates for the Dec. 13th general elections during a rally at the venue on Sunday.
The NDP said that it has photographs and video footage that shows that two uniformed officers from the Special Services Unit, a tactical unit, were present while the posters were being removed.
Further, one resident of New Montrose appeared on Nice radio along with Eustace and Eustace’s lawyer, Kay Bacchus-Browne, on Saturday, saying he witnessed and took photos of the police standing guard while the posters were being torn down.
“They (police officer) grabbed my phone; they pulled it away…. He said, ‘You know I can lock you up? I have handcuffs here. I can carry you and beat you’,” Levi Adolphus Cummings said of his encounter with the cops as he took photographs of the development sometime after 1pm.
“He (police officer) said, ‘For your best interest, just get off the sidewalk.’ So I start[ed] walking,” Cummings further said.
“One of the areas we are examining now is what legal action we can take,” Eustace said on Nice Radio.
He said that his party is considering expanding its legal team to include non-Vincentian lawyers “because the situation is getting more and more serious every day”.
He did not believe that the police acted in their own volition in the alleged contravention of freedom of expression rights.
“They never did it before. Why are they doing it now?” Eustace said.
“The police officers who were observing the removal of the posters appear to be more interested in stopping regular citizens from observing [the] fact that the posters were being torn down. That is not democracy. What we have in this country is a dictatorship. Are we moving to a police state?” Eustace said.
He further said that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is also Minister of National Security and said, “…when things like this go on, it cannot be without his knowledge”.
“In any case, we are bringing it to his knowledge now, if he doesn’t have it before and I want to see what he is going to do about it,” Eustace said.
“The reality is he is responsible and he should come out and make the requisite statements to ensure that that kind of thing does not happen,” he added.
Eustace said Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) “are running scared about the NDP winning the elections”.
“They will do anything to try to get power again in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This time, they will not get it,” he said.
“…all these efforts that are being made have only one design: to find a way to retain power in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Eustace said that his party would “…continue to be vigilant and bring to the public’s attention any efforts aimed at undermining our party and also the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as we move forward in this election period”.
He said he has been “careful and patient in dealing with the issues that confront us” and reiterated his call for all citizen “not to allow emotions to run wild [and] to keep it clean and within the law”.
“But it seems that this government has no regard for democracy, has no regard for our Constitution and Gonsalves must answer to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Why are you doing these things Mr Gonsalves? … You have been in office now for nearly ten years. Are you that scared that you find yourself in a position where you are resorting to such types of actions? You can’t win with that either; we will still beat you,’ Eustace said.
Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Browne said the actions of the police “can lead to disorderly conduct”, adding, “That is why it is important that we ask people to exercise restraint and calm.”
“Actually, there is still freedom of expression in St. Vincent and the Grenadines so there is no laws, as far as I know, against putting up your posters except you are defacing people’s property or persons ask you to take them down. And if persons do not want posters on their private property, for example, there is a way to do it. You ask persons to take it down.
“But when the state… [is] using the police to enforce this type of behaviour, it can encourage violence,” the lawyer said.
She further noted that the NDP and ULP are the major political parties in SVG and that the government “should not give precedence at this time in election to one party over the other”.
“There seems to be total confusion that the ULP is equal to the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and that is not how it should be,” Bacchus-Browne said.
“The NDP is a part of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to the Constitution. Mr Eustace is the validly elected Leader of the Opposition and so the NDP they have certain rights. … It is wrong to confuse the ULP with the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is wrong to use the state power to promote the ULP and their campaign or to take away rights from the NDP. The constitution has given us all freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and part of our expression is to support a political party, to view posters or to put up posters,” she added.
Bacchus-Browne also joined with Eustace to in calling for party supporters to “remain calm”.
“Do not retaliate. Do not, for example, go and pull down their posters either. Let us exercise calm, let us respect each other and allow each party to express their right that is given under the Constitution,” she said.
“I just want to stress again. I don’t want anybody in the NDP to take any unlawful action. I don’t want anybody in the ULP either to take any unlawful action. Let peace prevail,” Eustace said.
“If you have to exercise anger, the anger must be with your pen at the polls on Election Day, Dec. 13th…. I still appeal to our people to exercise your anger via the ballot. Send a clear message to Gonsalves that he and his policies are rejected and that we want to maintain democracy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So, please be calm in this particular exercise,” he added.