ST. VINCENT (Jan. 14):- Lawyers for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today, Friday, Jan. 14, to respond to the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) decision to throw out ten private complaints brought against Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and three of his ministers.
The charges were laid on Tuesday on behalf of three NDP candidates in last month’s general elections in relation to “different character assassinations” during the election campaign.
Chief Magistrate Sonia Young had summoned Minister of Health, Cecil McKie; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Dr. Douglas Slater; and, Minister of Housing, Clayton Burgin, to appear in court today to answer the charges.
NDP lawyer Kay Bacchus-Browne told I Witness-News on Wednesday that the NDP’s legal team saw no reason why summons were not also issued for Gonsalves.
The NDP, which lost the general elections last month by a single seat, had rallied its supporters to come out in solidarity as the government ministers appear in court today.
However, party leader Arnhim Eustace Thursday night told Nice Radio listeners of the decision by DPP Colin Williams.
NDP senator, Vynnette Frederick, had brought two complaints against Gonsalves and another two against McKie, who defeated her in West St. George.
Nigel Stevenson, who won in South Leeward, had brought two complaints against Slater, the immediate past area representative while NDP chairman, Dr. Linton Lewis, had brought four complaints against Burgin, who defeated him in East St. George.
Lawyer for the NDP, Kay Bacchus-Browne, told I Witness-News on Wednesday that the party’s legal team, which includes Nicole Sylvester and Trinidadian Keith Scotland, had “quite firm” evidence against the ministers.
Bacchus-Browne, however, noted that the DPP had in the past discontinued private matters against Gonsalves.
She further said that if the DPP took such a step, her team was prepared to challenge him all the way to the Privy Council, the nation’s highest court.
Asked if she was anticipating that the DPP would discontinue the charges, Bacchus-Browne had said, “Let us say that it is very probable. However, I will wait and see what happens.”
The private criminal complaints were brought under the Representation of the People’s Act.
If the ministers were found guilty, they could have been charged $750 and imprisoned for one year in addition to being disqualified from voting, contesting elections or from being a Member of Parliament for five years.
“They are also very serious complaints and the evidence we have is quite firm. We are confident that on the law, we have all the evidence necessary to win,” Bacchus-Browne had said.