The two election petitions that have been before the High Court since December 2015 are the two most important cases in eastern Caribbean currently, says Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, one of the lawyers for the petitioners.
“… because petition matters are highly significant, they are important, and they concern the right to free and fair elections, they concern the right to be able to vote by secret ballot and they are of high public interest,” Bacchus-Baptiste, a senator, told a press conference held by her New Democratic Party last week Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Lauron Baptiste and Benjamin “Ben” Exeter, of the main opposition New Democratic Party, are questioning the announced victories of Montgomery Daniel and Sir Louis Straker in North Windward and Central Leeward in the December 2015 polls.
The Unity Labour Party (ULP) was announced winner in those two districts and six others, securing a fourth consecutive term in office.
The High Court was slated to hear, last week, oral testimonies in the cases.
However, Justice Esco Henry recused herself from the matter on Dec. 4, after she found out that 12 matters were listed to be heard by her this week.
Last Friday, the judge granted an application to adjourn the hearing because of Grahame Bollers, lead counsel for Sir Louis and Daniel, being unwell.
Bacchus-Baptiste said that Henry, in granting her decision, said that the fact that the 12 matters were listed for hearing could give the impression that she knew that the petitions would have been adjourned.
Bacchus-Baptiste told the press conference that the impact of having to adjourn the cases because the judge has been forced to recuse herself after waiting for three years to have the cases heard have “serious, far-reaching consequences for the administration of justice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
She said the petitions also concern the constitutional right to be able to vote by secret ballot
“This is one of the pillars of our case,” she said, citing Section 23 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to vote by secret ballot.
“And so, I find the fact that Justice Henry was forced to recuse herself at this stage is a serious scar on our administration of justice.
“Because our case is questioning the legitimacy of our government, it is not a joke. What is more, two petitioners are challenging the election of two MPs, two representatives to the House of Assembly when there is only a one-seat majority.
“It is very important to have that context. It is not where the government is leading by about four seats and you are questioning one seat. They have a one-seat majority and we are questioning two seats. And so, these petitions ought to be heard far more expeditiously than they have been,” she said.