The new leader of the main opposition New Democratic Party said on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the December 2015 election, that the party’s petitions challenging the results of the vote are still live and before the court.
Godwin Friday, however, said that their appeal of a judge’s decision to throw out the petitions as improperly filed will not be heard until February, the first day when the government’s lawyers will be available.
Speaking on his party’s daily radio programme on Friday, the NDP leader said that day marked one year since “genuine democracy was denied in our beautiful land”.
Friday, who became Leader of the Opposition and NDP president in November, further told listeners:
“In fact, today, the 9th of December, is the anniversary of the date when we had elections when there were so many irregularities, when the election results did not reflect what happened in the polling booth,” he said.
Electoral officials say that the Unity Labour Party secured eight of the 15 parliamentary seats for a fourth consecutive term in office in elections that regional and international observers said reflected the will of the electorate.
But the NDP, citing irregularities, have gone to court over the outcome of the vote in North Windward and Central Leeward.
Friday said “gross irregularities saw the return of the Unity Labour Party in a result which we still contend did not reflect the true will of the people”.
He noted that the Organisation of American States has also raised concerns about how the elections were conducted.
At the last hearing, High Court judge, Justice Brian Cottle, threw out the petitions as improperly filed and the NDP appealed that ruling.
Friday said: “And it has been a long and arduous process. We still have no resolution but we are pursuing it with determination, vigour and all the skill that our legal team can muster. We are disappointed that our challenges, that is the court challenges, have not moved forward faster in the court system but we are continuing to push on and will do so to the end of the process.”
He said that NDP’s lawyers have all taken the steps necessary to move the matter forward as quickly as possible and to protect all documents that will be needed in the process of having the matter properly litigated in the court.
The NDP had hoped that the appeal would have been heard in December, but Friday said that they are not likely to be heard until mid-February “because that is the first time that the lawyers for the respondents say that they are available to attend in the court.
“We are determined in the New Democratic Party to see that justice is done and that the ULP administration is removed from office. We believe that is the will of the people,” said Friday, who is also MP for the Northern Grenadines.
He said the NDP’s commitment is demonstrated by its continued statements on behalf of the people and the action in the court.
“It is also demonstrated in a very strong way by the protesters on the Front Line who have stood together in the face of threats to keep vigil for our democracy,” he said in reference to the persons who have been protesting outside the electoral office in Kingstown daily since Dec. 10, 2015.
“We owe them a debt of gratitude for all of their efforts and for their persistence and dedication that they have shown,” Friday said.
He said that even in the time when the protesters receive threats and persons heap scorn upon them, “they stay there because they know the importance of democracy to our country and the role that they are playing in protecting that”.
The NDP leader said the protesters have earned the respect of all and have inspired a new era of vigilance and struggle.