The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has sought to assure the public that its appeal of the decision of the High Court to throw out its elections petitions as improperly filed will, in fact, be heard.
“The Vincentian electorate will not be denied justice. Our appeals will be heard shortly,” Leader of the Opposition and President of the NDP, Arnhim Eustace, told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday.
His comments came as it became public that the appeals were not listed for hearing as the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal meets in Kingstown this week.
Eustace said the appeal would not be heard this week, as a direct result of three things, the first of which is the time it took to thoroughly prepare the appeals, which he noted were filed on time.
Eustace also spoke of the time it took for the Court office to prepare the transcripts and gave the third reason as the time it took before the NDP’s legal team received the transcripts after they were prepared.
The appeal was filed on Aug. 3, yet the transcripts were not received by our lawyers until the Sept. 8, Eustace said.
Eustace also responded to comments by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and lead counsel for the government in the petitions, Dominican senior counsel, Anthony Astaphan.
He said Gonsalves and Astaphan have suggested that even though the transcripts were received late, the record, which must include the transcripts, ought to have been prepared and somehow the appeal would have been heard this week.
“That is not the case. The transcripts were received on September 8th 2016, the very day the Court put out the preliminary list of matters to be heard by the Court of Appeal this week. As a result, our appeals could not have made even the preliminary list of matters,” Eustace said.
He noted that Court of Appeal will be sitting as many as four more times over the next two months: Oct. 10 to 14 in St. Kitts and Nevis; Oct. 24-28 in Antigua & Barbuda; Nov. 7 to 10 in Dominica or Nov. 21 to 25 in the British Virgin Island and a possible sitting in Grenada from Dec. 9 to 15.
The NDP has filed two petitions challenging the results in North Windward and Central Leeward of the Dec. 9, 2015 general elections.
High Court judge, Justice Brian Cottle, threw out petitions as improperly filed, saying that the document giving security for costs was not properly signed.
The NDP has appealed that judgment.
If the NDP wins the appeal, the results of the election, which the Gonsalves Unity Labour Party won — eight seats to the NDP’s seven — could be quashed and fresh elections held in those districts or general elections called.