ST. VINCENT: – The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) said Wednesday, Dec. 1, that there is a “well-funded attempt to undermine democracy” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as the nation prepares for general elections on Dec. 13.
Further, lawyer for the NDP Bertram Commissiong QC detailed allegations of illegal voter registration in East Kingstown, including the reported involvement of a registering officer, cops, and a Justice of the Peace.
NDP president and Opposition Arnhim Eustace said during a press briefing that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was being funded by Iran and Venezuela as he uses “increasingly dictatorial technique to stifle the voice and the will” of Vincentians.
“His intention is clear and that is to win this general election at all cost whether by fair means or by foul means. I wish to make it clear to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that I and my party will stand shoulder to shoulder with you against this tyranny,” Eustace said at party headquarters, Democrat House, in Kingstown.
“There is no question now in my mind of a planned and well-funded attempt to undermine democracy in this country is underway,’ Eustace said during the press briefing, which was also attended by Commissiong and President of the Young Democrats, Nick Francis.
Eustace restated his party’s accusation that Luke Browne, the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) candidate for East Kingstown, had transferred non-constituents to register there.
Browne, who will run against Eustace, has denied the allegations and said he is considering legal action against NDP public relations officer Vynnette Frederick, who first accused him of the alleged wrong doing on radio last week.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said that the Director of Public Prosecution, Colin Williams, will be informed of the development, with a view to having him prosecute Frederick, who will contest the West St George seat on behalf of the NDP.
Eustace further said that the ULP has used the police as a party tool rather than a government force and that armed cops have escorted ULP activists as they removed legal NDP campaign material.
Eustace did not identify any specific instances in which this had happened. However, last Saturday, Eustace made a statement on Nice Radio hours after NDP posters were removed, under police guard, from the southern wall of Victoria Park in Kingstown.
The National Lotteries Authority, which manages the facility, has said the posters were removed because the wall is for paid advertisements.
Eustace on Wednesday further accused the ULP of organising the systematic removal of NDP election material across the country and frustrating the party’s attempts to book certain key national venues for election rallies, “making a mockery of the notion of equity during this campaign season”.
He further said that Gonsalves has rejected his invitation by me to make a non-party-affiliated call for peace and free and fair elections.
Gonsalves has said that Eustace has not condemned an attack of three female ULP supporters in Chateaubelair in Nov., reportedly by NDP supporters and said Eustace’s stance on the issues “marks him out as a hypocrite”.
Eustace also told the press of alleged misuse of hurricane aid, saying it was being distributed to ULP supports who were not affected by the storm late Oct.
“The Prime Minister has still never explained the nature and amount of funding he receives from Iran, Libya, Syria, Cuba and
Venezuela and what these countries expect to receive in return for financing his party and the election. The Prime Minister has still not explained the US$1m cash deposit, paid into the NCB (National Commercial Bank) nor the amounts paid in by his family and party officials,” Eustace said.
“And after all of this, with so much evidence against him – with so much wickedness at his door – the Prime Minister has refused to condemn any of these actions.
“I make this statement today because I believe that our democracy is really under threat. The Prime Minister has failed to conduct himself according to the responsibility of his office. He has failed to live up to the title of Prime Minister. And now today new information has emerged of the absolute desperation of this man and his party to hold onto power,” Eustace said.
Among the instances of alleged voter registration Commissiong QC detailed was one in which a registering voter “provided a red passport not unlike one issued by Venezuela”. Vincentians passports are blue.
“If these allegations are true, they constitute a violation of the [Representation] of the People’s Act, for which there are penalties attached,” Commissiong said.
Eustace, who expressed confidence in the Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay Scrubb, said that he would submit to her a list of persons suspected of registering illegally.
“Under the law, we have to wait until the publication of the list to see whether those names are there. But I will tell you that our lawyers are vigorously pursuing this matter already. The presence of Queen’s Counsel here is not an accident. Other lawyers are involved in this process and we will present the information at the appropriate time in accordance with the law,” he said.
Commissiong however noted that the NDP does not have a case based on suspicions that someone had registered illegally.
“They may have gone through the motions of being registered but their names may not appear on the voter’s list. So, until it gets there, you don’t have a case,” Commission said in response to a question.