A former MP under the New Democratic Party (NDP) has identified what he portrayed as a potential conflict of interest in the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) mission that observed the Dec. 9 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
John Horne, a former MP for West Kingstown, noted that the head of the OAS mission, Ambassador Jacinth Henry-Martin, was a former member of the Denzil Douglas administration in St. Kitts and Nevis, against which the NDP provided a platform in the lead up to that federation’s elections earlier this year.
Henry-Martin, who became chief of staff at the OAS in May, was an elected parliamentarian and minister of government in St. Kitts and Nevis from March 2000 to October 2004, under the Douglas administration.
Her profile on Linkedin, a professional networking website, says he was also an ambassador for the Douglas administration between January 2005 and May 2015, when she joined the OAS.
The OAS Observer Mission composed of 13 observers from 10 countries.
Electoral officials say the vote was won by the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP), which captured eight of the 15 seats, while the remaining seven went to the NDP — a repeat of the 2010 election results.
NDP leader Arnhim Eustace, citing irregularities, especially in Central Leeward, is claiming that it is the legitimately elected government, adding that the party will go to court over the results.
Observers from the OAS, CARICOM and the Commonwealth monitored the elections.
The OAS in its preliminary statement on Thursday urged that “the established electoral procedures be utilized to address any differences or disputes that may arise”.
The Commonwealth Election Observer Team, in a statement on Saturday, said:
“Based on our observation and exchanges with a broad range of stakeholders since our arrival, our preliminary conclusion is that the elections were generally peaceful and relatively well conducted. The shortfalls observed to date by members of the Team are not significant enough to put in question the credibility of the outcome.
“As of today 12 December 2015, we have heard allegations of serious irregularities from one political party. We call upon those making these claims to file formal complaints as prescribed in the electoral laws, and for the relevant institutions to investigate and pronounce on these allegations.”
Speaking from the floor at an NDP media event on Saturday, Horne said:
“I have one question to ask the OAS. What was the basis on which you selected the leader of this delegation this time? They should have been sensitive enough and aware enough to know that Mr. Eustace and the NDP gave a platform to the new prime minister of St. Kitts [Timothy Harris] to air his views to be heard by the world when Denzil Douglas was refusing to call the Parliament.”
The NDP had Timothy Harris in SVG at a time when he and other opposition MPs in St. Kitts had failed to get the parliament there to debate a no-confidence motion at a time when Douglas had lost support of the majority of MPs.
Horne said he understands that Henry-Martin was a part of the Douglas government.
“I know that on the one hand you can say people have the right to be independent and to be independent-thinking. But that was a particularly sensitive situation involving our opposition who gave voice to the now new government in St. Kitts against the victimisation and wickedness of the previous Denzil Douglas government, so you should have been smart enough and sensitive enough not to ruffle feathers.”
Horne applauded Eustace on his stance, saying, “I agree, do not go into Parliament, one. And, two, stand firm continue to rally with your people, our people who would be there to support us through thick and thin, as they did on the 9th of December 2015.”
Speaking earlier, Eustace told party supporters and the media that election observers come to SVG “too late to make any meaningful decision”.
He said he has a very serious problem with that and communicated it to the Commonwealth observers.
“When all of the work is going on, when people are being registered who should not be registered in particular constituencies, they are not here, and, therefore, they are often not in a position to really observer — that’s the word they use, ‘in-depth’, and therefore really make decisions.
“I had the same problem before in 2010. Often they make decisions, which we don’t agree with.”
He said all the observers went into the counting room in Central Leeward.
“All of them know about the conditions that were faced in that room. If they say otherwise, then that’s a matter for then,” he said.
Of the pronouncements of the election observer missions, Eustace said: “CARICOM will say, it is free and fair, the OAS can say it was free and fair. We in the New Democratic Party say it was not free and it was not fair. And at least I have been in contact already with three OECS prime ministers on the matter of this election.”
Sharon Cummings, a lawyer for the NDP, told the event that the OAS observer mission was in Layou where the final count took place on Thursday.
“And, the objections we were making, at times we turned to them and explained to them why we were saying that. But, we made our objections in sight and hearing of the observers, both CARICOM and the OAS.
“I mean, we will not be responsible for what they report, but, certainly, in a particular matter, I took the time to explain to Mr. Gaymes (the returning officer) why I was asking him for a certain document and I spoke out loudly for the observers to hear why I was asking for a certain document. And he refused to give it to me — in earshot of the observers who were there,” said Cummings, who is wife of Daniel Cummings, an NDP candidate who officials have declared winner of the West Kingstown seat — for a second consecutive term.