Lead counsel in the Central Leeward petition, Douglas Mendes, right, chat with former supervisor of elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb on Feb. 11, 2018, the first day of the trial. (iWN photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has authorised lawyers for the government in the election petitions case to make a no-case submission today, Thursday, day four of the trial.

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, a lawyer for the government, communicated the information to acting Prime Minister Sir Louis Straker, one of the respondents in the case, on Thursday ahead of the resumption of the hearing Thursday morning.

Gonsalves is in the United Arab Emirates on official busines and Sir Louis, the Deputy Prime Minsiter, is acting in his stead.

The defence team will make a final decision on whether to make the no-case submission after hearing the testimony of some the other witnesses today.

At the resumption of the trial Thursday morning, Astaphan told the court that the respondents may require a replay of a video that petitioner Benjamin “Ben” Exeter tendered as part of his evidence.

The video was played in court on Wednesday.

Astaphan told the court that the opposition’s legal team has no objections to replaying the video.

iWitness News understands that the government’s legal team is trying to determine whether the lawyers for the opposition New Democratic Party who are recorded in the video had told the returning officer in Central Leeward, Winston Games,   that they objected to the counting of ballots that did not have the official mark or stamp.

Exeter is challenging the result of the Central Leeward vote in the 2015 general election, in which Louis was decared the winner.

Exeter’s legal team closed their case on Wednesday after almost three days of cross examination of witnesses for the petitioners, whose written statements were entered as their evidence in chief.

The trial saw the cross examination of seven witnesses, including the petitioner.

Other witnesses included Chester Charles, brother of Maxwell Charles, a former Member of Parliament for Central Leeward and Minister of Labour under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration.

During the trial, witnesses were crossed examined based on witness statements that formed their evidence in chief, but was not read in court.

The other witnesses included lawyers Maia Eustace and Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell.

Eustace was a roving agent for Exeter on the day of the Dec. 9, 2015 general election.

They both attended the final count the following day.

Also testifying on Exeter’s behalf were Ethron Creese, Paul Creese, and Esla Sam, all of whom were agents for Exeter during the election.

Election officials say that Central Leeward was among the eight seats that the ULP won in the 15-member parliament to secure a fourth consecutive term in office.

But Exeter is challenging the declared victory of the ULP’ Sir Louis Straker.

The NDP’s Lauron Baptiste is also challenging the announced victory of the Montgomery Daniel in North Windward.

Exeter had his day in court on Tuesday when he was cross examined by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, lead counsel for the government. 

Exeter told the court that there are so many things he can’t trust about the 2015 poll.

Exeter’s petition is supported by a series of photographs he took during the final count on December 10, 2015.

“I have issues with all of the ballots cast in the 2015 election in Central Leeward,” Exeter told the court.

His evidence included a video, shot during the tally, in which lawyer, Maia Eustace can be heard protesting to the presiding officer, Winston Gaymes.

In the video, Eustace objects to Gaymes’ decision to accept, as valid, ballots of the type that he had rejected in another polling station because they did not have the initials or official stamp of the presiding officer.

On Tuesday, Eustace testified on Exeter’s behalf and rejected several official documents as different from those she had seen during the final count in Central Leeward.

Trial in the North Windward petition began on Wednesday, when two witnesses were cross examined.

The trial continued today with an agent for the NDP in North Windward giving evidence as a witnesses in the North Windward petition.

When cross examination of the petitioners’ witnesses in both cases is complete, it will be the turn of the petitioners’ legal team to cross examine the witnesses on behalf of the state.

One of the most anticipated testimonies is undoubtedly that of then supervisor of elections, Sylvia Findlay Scrubb, who has since retired from the post.

The government’s legal team also includes Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan of Dominica and attorneys from Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua.

The petitioners’ cases is being led by Vincentian Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John and Trinidadian attorney Keith Scotland.

Trinidad-born jurist, Acting High Court Judge justice Stanley John of Tobago, is presiding.

The petitions are being tried more than three years after they were filed.

They were reinstated in 2015 after the Court of Appeal ruled that Justice Brian Cottle has shown apparent bias in his decision to dismiss the petitions as improperly filed.

3 replies on “PETITIONS TRIAL: PM authorises no case submission — lawyer”

  1. My recollection is that had the so-called rejected ballots not been counted, they would have made no difference in the outcome of the vote.

    If the petitioners win the case on this issue, it would therefore be a flagrant and possibly unconstitutional violation of the will of the majority of voters in Central Leeward.

    I also recall that it was Ben Exeter who browbeat duncy Winston Gaymes into counting the rejected ballots (https://www.iwnsvg.com/2016/03/23/some-ballots-used-in-2015-elections-were-defective-eustace/ ).

    As I have repeatedly contested, elections all over the world are plagued by unintentional and sloppy errors largely because such elections are only held once every few years and different personnel with no previous electoral exprience are in charge of these elections at all levels of their administration. This is compounded in countries like our own where all manner of persons, including candidates, are allowed into the polling station where they do all manner of mischief including intimidating hapless officials the likes of Winston Gaymes, a practice generally prohibited in most countries.

    A no-case submission is quite in order since the evidence of the petitioners is so weak.

  2. Maia Eustace should never give up! She is correct in pointing out Gayme’s double-standard. In any other country that alone is grounds to nullify the vote in that constituency. We all see that in Saint Vincent that is not the case. Look at the country Austria, they found discrepancies and it caused a new election but in tiny poor Saint Vincent we flourish on corruption. Just look how long it took the petitions to get to court. That in itself is a shame to any country calling itself a democracy!
    If, even after this length of time a new election is not called we should all hang our heads in shame and expect that since the government got away with it, we will get more of the same from this government in the future

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