ST. VINCENT:- Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves will not apologise to President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA), Nicole Sylvester, for saying she is an opposition New Democratic party (NDP) “activist”, one of his lawyers, Dominican Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, has said.
Further, Astaphan has given notice that Gonsalves’ legal team is putting together cases against persons who might have defamed the Prime Minister and other candidates of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) during the campaign for the general elections on Monday, Dec. 13.
Sylvester’s lawyer wrote to Gonsalves last Tuesday, Dec. 7, giving him 24 hours to apologise or face court action, saying his comments had damaged her reputation.
Gonsalves, speaking on the campaign trail Monday night, said his party would oppose Sylvester’s participation in a local group monitoring the general elections.
“Nicole Sylvester is, for all practical purposes, an NDP activist and so is Jeanie Ollivierre. I want to make that plain, absolute plain,” Gonsalves said at a rally in Kingstown.
“Nothing like Nicole Sylvester and Jeanie Ollivierre could present themselves as part of any Christian Council – National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism framework [NMCM] to do any monitoring. … You see, they don’t understand the importance of independence in an election and they do not know and understand the power of the Labour masses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he told party supporters.
The ULP wrote to the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism (NMCM) requesting that Sylvester, who has worked as a lawyer for both members of the ULP and the NDP, be removed as an election monitor.
Sylvester told a reporter this week that on hearing a rumour, she contacted the Christian Council, which said that it had decided not to use her as a monitor because of the ULP’s complaint.
Sylvester’s lawyer, in her letter to Gonsalves, said that the Prime Minister’s comments were damaging to her professional reputation.
“You are seeking to defame our client and in so doing attempting to deny and deprive her from being a monitor which will be a grave injustice…” the lawyers said.
“There will be no apology from Dr Ralph E Gonsalves and Dr Ralph E Gonsalves is prepared and will be ready to fight the matter in the court,” Astaphan, a lawyer for Gonsalves and his ULP administration, said this week.
“It cannot be right, if Ralph Gonsalves ask anyone of us here to be monitors at this election. People would think that he has gone mad,” he said at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 9.
Astaphan also said that lawyer Sylvester, along with fellow lawyer Kay Bacchus Brown, should not be monitors because Brown has attended NDP press conferences and made allegations of anti-democratic practices, illegal registration and accused the government of illegal practices.
Bacchus Brown and Sylvester this week represented Patricia Chance in brining four private criminal complaints of elections fraud against Luke Browne, the ULP’s East Kingstown candidate.
Astaphan said that based on that “simple point” Sylvester could not be considered “an independent and impartial monitor”.
Speaking on WE FM’s Shake-UP on Friday, Dec. 10, after the Chief Magistrate Sonia Young dismissed the complaints against Browne, Astaphan said that “the legal team” will ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to make some legal consideration.
“…rest assured, after the election the legal team is putting in place a number of things. This Parsons video tape is going to cost people a lot after the election. We don’t want to be distracted by that,” he said.
He was refereeing to a video tape in which Margaret Parsons, a Vincentian-Canadian human rights lawyer, details what she said was an unwanted sexual encounter with Gonsalves.
Gonsalves threatened to sue SVG TV and demanded that the station apologise for broadcasting as a special for the NDP last week the video, which is available on YouTube.
The NDP has broadcast audio and audio-visual clips from the video at its campaign event and in radio advertisements.
“We are going to consider seriously advising criminal complaint be filed in relations to the Parsons thing,” Astaphan said.
“We are going to take seriously the position we took with the Director of Public Prosecutions in relations to Luke Browne,” he added.
Browne’s lawyer has written to the DPP asking that he prosecute NDP public relations officer and West St George candidate, Vynnette Frederick, for accusing Browne on radio of election fraud.
“…Vynnette Frederick has been positing things on Facebook and all over the place about Luke Browne. She and others who have done the same can rest assured that after the election, once Luke Browne has been sworn in as part of the government … once that is settled, the legal team will ensure that those who sort to bring the rule of law into disrepute, who sought to tarnish the reputation of Dr Gonsalves and Luke Browne will pay a very heavy price,” Astaphan said.
“… we are not going to allow that sort of abuse to continue unabated,” he said.
He said that Gonsalves, who has sued several people since coming to office, “has always gone to court for a legitimate reason and always with success.
“This is not silencing. This is a vindication of a man‘s reputation because, what do they want Ralph to do? Would they want Ralph Gonsalves to keeping running to the court to continue filing private criminal complaints against them to abuse the criminal process like they are doing?” he said.
Astaphan has earlier this week said that lawyers who attended a press conference on behalf of Parsons “will hear from us”, adding, “…we are not going to tolerate lawyers seeking to manipulate the process like that.
“Those who presented and spoke on behalf of Margaret Parsons are going to answer for the fact of the series of lies that were told by this woman…” Astaphan said.