The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
According to Herbert A. (Haz) Samuel in his essay, “The OAS report’s inescapable call: Let the petitions be heard!”, the Organisation of American States (OAS) final report findings on the 2015 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) “… demonstrate why the NDP’s election petitions should be heard in court”.
This is the first of several non sequiturs — statements or conclusions that do not logically follow the previous arguments or statements –other logical errors, and distortions his letter contains.
First, it is false to claim that the Final OAS Report made the “inescapable call” “Let the petitions be heard!”
Rather it made the inescapable reverse claim, namely that: “OAS Observers did not discern any fraudulent or other activities at the final count ‘which could have materially affected the outcome of the vote’”.
Another non sequitur is Mr. Samuel’s claim that,“Reasonable observers would agree, based on the evidence so far presented to the court of public opinion, that these petitions are not based on frivolous grounds.”
What other than “reasonable observers” was the independent and impartial OAS team sent to SVG to monitor the election?
How could anyone assert that “public opinion” in such a politically divided country like SVG is likely to be based on “reasonable observation?”
How can most of us have a “reasonable opinion” on such a set of complex election issues without knowing all the facts and the fine points of the law?
And what use is it to invoke uninformed and biased “public opinion” as proof that the election was stolen — Kangaroo court, anyone? — when only the learned justices of the courts will have the final say?
Another non sequitur is Mr. Samuel’s assertion that if the petitions were based on frivolous grounds, “the government side would already have used that argument in its attempts to have them thrown out.”
Why the government side did not do so, he fails to tell us, a logical fallacy called “begging the question” (also called “circular reasoning”). Equally important, this assertion is based on an ignorance of the law, a sin some would argue Mr. Samuel can be excused of since he is an engineer by training and vocation and hence cannot be expected to be familiar with the difference between procedural and substantive law.
But as an engineer, Mr. Samuel surely knows this difference, at least implicitly, as when an engineering project is rejected on procedural grounds — the structural design or plan was not approved by the authorities or did not have the necessary signatures or stamps — even though it may be more than sound on a substantive basis.
Again, counter to the law, that Mr. Samuel seems to consider the incorrect filing of the election petitions a frivolous trifle — “so-called ‘procedural’ grounds,” is the sneering phrase he uses — may be based on confusing our formal legal system with the lackadaisical way Vincentians, including many lawyers and police officials, go about their business: commencing building houses before a permit is granted; signing legal documents in another person’s name, not with any criminal intent, but simply because the rightful signatory was otherwise occupied; and failing to obtain a proper court warrant when searching someone’s home for illegal drugs.
Yet another erroneous assertion is his claim that, “the government side asked the court to throw out the petitions … even if the petitions themselves may have actual substance,” even though the government made no such request on substantive grounds.
More important, any legal team worth its salt will be delighted to find clear cut procedural errors in defending their client, in this case the government of SVG; and any government keen on winning a legal battle would be well advised to accept the advice of its legal team.
He also makes the extraordinary extra-legal assertion that on May 27 when the petitions are set to be heard, “A rational court, concerned about the public interest, should refuse any … revised procedural application” “to have the petitions thrown out.”
A “rational court” for Mr. Samuel seems to be one that is ruled by the uninformed “public opinion” of a lynch mob of “reasonable observers” – every last one of them NDP supporters — hell bent on a change in government, the law and the judiciary be damned.
Finally, Mr. Samuel confuses the issue of procedural irregularities in filing the petitions with the substantive issue of the election irregularities themselves when he says that:
“Any citizen concerned with freedom, democracy and the right to self-determination should be alarmed by these findings [election irregularities] …. It goes without saying that any Justice worth his or her salt should be convinced, on reading this report, that there is a case to be heard in the court of law. Democracy must be upheld; the law must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. The government’s application to throw out the petitions should not succeed.”
What Mr. Samuel asks is that the court conflate the two sets of irregularities in such as way that the substantive issues nullify the procedural ones, an egregious and unprecedented misuse of the law in a free and democratic Western society.
Many will still recall the unsolved murder of Glen Jackson, the Prime Minister’s press secretary. The long and detailed signed confession obtained from a suspect was thrown out at the murder trial by the learned judge on procedural grounds. Using Mr. Samuel’s reasoning, Francis Williams, Mr. Jackson’s alleged lover, should have been found guilty of his murder regardless of whether the police bungled the case or not.
It is both surprising and disappointing that Mr. Samuel, the man who so carefully and skillfully deconstructed the lack of logic, fact, and substance in Dr. Ralph Gonsalves justification for the construction of an international airport at Argyle in his famous 2005 speech, would himself resort to the same kind of empty rhetoric, lack of substance, and faulty logic in his defense of the election petitions, proof once again that in little dog-eat-dog SVG almost no one is a “reasonable observer.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].