An opposition lawmaker says that the government’s handling of a cocktail reception last Friday to celebrate the ascension of Vincentian jurist Adrian Saunders to the presidency of the Caribbean Court of Justice, shows the state’s hypocrisy in calling for bi-partisan support of the court.
Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste said that “a real travesty” occurred when the state did not invite opposition lawmakers to the reception.
The government-organised and hosted cocktail took place at a hotel in Villa hours after the historic ceremonial sitting of the court in SVG.
At the sitting, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, citing a ruling of the Court of Appeal in St. Lucia, said that if he would receive opposition support, he would be willing to bring to the Vincentian Parliament a law replacing the London-based Privy Council with the CCJ as SVG’s highest court.
But Bacchus-Baptiste said on Boom FM on Monday that although she spoke at the sitting, at the special invitation of the CCJ, neither she nor opposition Leader Godwin Friday, who also attended the sitting, was invited to the cocktail reception.
“You are telling me there was no political interference [in the CCJ], you are telling me that right there, let us get the cooperation of the opposition, that’s what Ralph was saying, and then they send out invitations to a cocktail party sponsored by state funds and you select and deselect certain persons.
“You don’t invite me, you don’t invite the Leader of the Opposition and other NDP persons, you don’t invite them with state funds.
“And, let me tell you, I confronted the Attorney General on it. I said that this nonsense must stop. You must not play politics with state funds. He said to me, ‘Well, I did not make the list.’ But I sent it out so I have to accept,” said Bacchus-Baptiste, who is also a lawyer.
She said that she did not bother to ask the Attorney General, Jaundy Martin, who sent him the list of persons to invite “because it is clear that we know who sent the list”.
The senator, however, did not give a precise answer regarding who she thought prepared the list.
“I am going to leave it to the people to determine, because I am not going to speculate on the air. I am just saying that it is clear that it came from government and it came through the attorney general, printed invitations were sent out, and you know what was even strange to show that there was animus, there was design in it, they picked out Leacock and sent him an invitation.”
St. Clair Leacock, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, is also an opposition lawmaker and vice-president of the New Democratic Party, of which Bacchus Baptiste is a member.
Bacchus-Baptiste further said: “Poor Leacock did not even know that the rest of us were not invited. They picked him out because they have a strategy to try to separate Leacock from the NDP.
“It will not work. Our Leacock will not do that, but it shows how desperate they are. He went, because he did not know that we were not invited…”
The senator said that the action of the government “is bad”.
“You are saying that you need the opposition and are showing that let’s all get together and join the CCJ, we will not interfere. And in a simple matter of a cocktail party, you would be so low and crass that you don’t invite the Leader of the Opposition, and you don’t invite me who was a foundation member of [sic] of Adrian Saunders, all through from high school, right through university; it was for him that I was asked by them (CCJ) to speak specially on this programme and you over look me but you did not over look Leacock.
“You picked out Leacock and sent him an invitation? St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we cannot accept this sort of behaviour from the ULP. That is your answer, right then and there. They show us how they intend to gerrymander, to get involved in the minutest of things in order to get their aims. It’s very poor; very, very poor.”