By C. ben-David
Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name nicely captures the political dilemma facing the New Democratic Party (NDP) of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) which recently saw the rejection of its election petitions launched following the party’s loss in the December 2015 national election.
Now the party has to choose between accepting, “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” projected at them in Justice Stanley John’s March 21 judgment, “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.”
What Hamlet meant “by opposing end them” was to commit suicide which, given the contents of the petitions case and the high quality of the judgment rendered, means deliberate political self-destruction.
In the election petition case, accepting life’s “slings and arrows” means taking licks for having been declared losers in the 2015 elections by five different bodies: (1) the voters on election night; (2) The Organization of American States; (3) CARICOM; (4) the SVG National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism; and now (5) the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
Taking up “arms against a sea of troubles” by appealing Justice John’s compelling decision would merely yield a sixth loss by sealing the fate of this once strong and victorious Party long before it can prepare for the next round of elections expected in 2020.
Being in opposition for 18 years in a country where most political supporters are long on party praise but short on financial support, compounded by the reality that the NDP would be obliged to pay millions of dollars in the legal costs of both sides perhaps pushing the Party towards eventual bankruptcy, has the Party between a rock and hard place.
That the party did not carefully consider this eventuality long ago boggles the mind. But when you are determined to cut down your own breadfruit tree, as I have already termed this suicidal political exercise, rational contemplation is of little consequence.
Nevertheless, refusing to appeal the “slings and arrows” of the fifth loss would be a humiliating and demoralising admission that the 2015 election was free and fair after all. Still, the party, and its zealous supporters, would easily rationalise no appeal by claiming the other Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal justices are just as “unjust” (see below) as Judge Stanley John.
Watch a time for a party that won four elections in a row (1984, 1989, 1994, 1998)! But that was with a different leader and different candidates save one, Arnhim Eustace, the author of its four-in-a-row losses.
But the Party seems to have already made its tragic choice when its leader, Godwin Friday, announcing on April 4 that:
“For the petitioners, for the lawyers who have ably represented them, for the NDP and for the wider public, the matter is not settled. After three years of struggle, of ups and downs, of highs and lows, of triumphs and setbacks, the matter remains unresolved.
“The petitioners, with the full support of the NDP, have therefore decided to appeal the decision of Acting Justice Stanley John to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. I support that decision and the NDP will, as always, stand firmly behind the petitioners, as the parties in matter, and our legal team as the case proceeds to the Court of Appeal.”
Friday’s most important consideration, however, seemed to be that, “In the court of public opinion, the decision of the court has also been found wanting and the general public sentiment has been critical of it,” hardly relevant legal grounds for an election appeal and more evidence still that the Party is on the road to perdition.
Nor does his party’s cynical and hateful rejection of the court’s decision represent anything more than a repudiation of his position that: “We must reject once and for all, the old-style politics of division and hate practised by the ULP and its leaders” (Godwin Friday).
In another of Shakespeare’s famous plays, Julius Caesar, one of his closest allies, Mark Antony, pondering Caesar’s assassination, declares, “O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason.” When judgment flees, people act like beasts is as a good characterisation as any of the NDP and its supporters’ continuing attempt to discredit Justice John’s carefully reasoned and legally sound decision with slogans like “no justice, no peace” and “God doh sleep. Justice will prevail” (Godwin Friday, March 21).
But the NDP’s very own Caesar — Sir James Mitchell, the party’s founder and only successful leader — is long gone and all that remains is a new but lacklustre head, second rate candidates, and ill-informed supporters all wildly pushing the party towards the precipice.
Small wonder that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves appears so enthusiastic about his chances of leading his Unity Labour Party to its fifth victory in a row.
This is the third in a series of opinion pieces on the election petitions in SVG. The first two are found below:
- NDP knew their election petitions would fail
- Which party really tried to steal the 2015 Vincentian election?
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].