The government (respondents) has appealed a 2-year-old ruling in the election petitions case, six months after a final judgement came down in their favour, and five months after the opposition appealed that final ruling.
Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, a senator for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which brought the petitions, and a lawyer involved in the case, spoke of the development on the party’s radio programme, “New Times”, on NICE Radio on Friday.
She said that the respondents have appealed the June 2017 ruling by Justice Esco Henry that while the sureties given in support of the petitions were insufficient, they were valid.
Justice Henry had also given the petitioners until July 7, 2017 to deposit EC$5,000 with the High Court so that the case can proceed, or have the petitions dismissed.
The judge rejected an application by the attorneys for the government to throw out the petitions as invalid, paving the way for them to proceed to trial, which took place in February and March 2019.
The NDP brought the petitions challenging the announced victory of the ruling Unity Labour Party, which was returned to office by a single seat majority in the 15-member parliament, a repeat of the 2010 result.
Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, a first time candidate who represented the NDP in North Windward, is challenging the announced victory of Montgomery Daniel of the ruling ULP, who was returned for a fourth term in office.
The NDP’s Benjamin “Ben” Exeter, who was also a first-time candidate, has filed a petition challenging the announced election of Sir Louis Straker, who came out of retirement to contest for the ULP the Central Leeward seat — which he had won for three terms prior to retiring.
In December 2018, Justice Henry recused herself from the case, after 12 matters came to be listed for her to preside over during the week that had been reserved for hearing the petitions. The registrar of the High Court is said to have launched an investigation into that development.
Justice Stanley John, a retired Trinidadian jurist, was hired to act as a High Court judge and preside over the case, and, after a trial in February and March, dismissed the petitions on March 21, citing a lack of evidence.
But the NDP, on April 30, 2019 appealed Justice John’s ruling, and Bacchus-Baptiste said on Friday that her team had “excellent grounds, very, very strong grounds of appeal.
“And apparently, this has had the respondents’ head in a tail spin,” she said.
She said that in the North Windward petition, Justice John did not refer to most of the evidence that was presented on behalf of the petitioners.
“And most of you would remember that he was asked several times by the lawyers on the other side to correct his judgement,” Bacchus-Baptiste said of the efforts by lawyers of the respondents to get Justice John to provide supplemental reasons for ruling in their favour.
She said that the judge was initially unable to do so because his appointment had expired, but gave reasons in June, after being reappointed as a temporary judge in Antigua and Barbuda, another Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court jurisdiction.
Bacchus-Baptiste noted that when Justice John gave his supplemental reasons, he spoke of a “ground of appeal” having failed, as if he were writing a Court of Appeal Judgement.
Then, on July 15, 2019, the respondents “filed an appeal against themselves,” Bacchus-Baptiste said, adding that they appealed Justice Henry’s 2017 ruling.
“This shows desperation on the part of the respondents,” the lawyer said.
“It shows they are so much in a tailspin because they don’t know how they are going to answer our appeal and all the faux pas that they have made in not addressing the North Windward petition, in not properly answering the Central Leeward petition, so they have decided to appeal a judgement that was sitting there since June 2017.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said the reason the respondents did not appeal Henry’s 2017 ruling is because it was an interlocutory judgement, which could not have been appealed then.
She said that the respondents filed their appeal on July 15, and, therefore, face another uphill battle.
“Because even if they can appeal that judgement that Justice Henry delivered over two years ago, the law says that they must appeal within 14 days of receiving our appeal.”
She said that according to the respondents’ own document, they have admitted that they should have appealed — if they could have appealed – by May 15th, 2019.
“No, they suddenly wake up in July of 2019 to realise that they want to appeal that judgement, which showed that this is a scam, this is an abuse of the process,” Bacchus-Baptiste said, adding that the respondents’ appeal should be struck out.
She continued: “Let’s suppose they are saying it was an interlocutory matter but now that the final judgement was delivered they can now appeal, why didn’t they appeal it as soon as we filed our appeal, within the time that the court says, that the law says that you must appeal within 14 days?
“They waited until weeks and weeks after to come up with this scam to see if they can, again, play politics with the Court of Appeal, because this is the only way I can describe that,” Bacchus-Baptiste said, adding that the respondents have competent lawyers who know the procedures.
“They not only did not do it within the 14 days, they went ahead willy-nilly, filed their cross appeal in both matters, did not file at least to show the courtesy to the court that we need a motion to extend the time to file it in, did not file that, waited until the 14th of August, that is one month after, to file what is called notice of motion for extension of time.”
She said the notice is essentially asking the court to extend the time within which the respondents should have filed their cross appeal.
“No proper reason is given. I am very disappointed that we are playing politics with such an important, important matter as the petitions which deals with the right for free elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. All right-thinking Vincentians should abhor this behaviour.
“So these people who have been celebrating and saying that they won and that they won rightfully and that our appeal is worthless; they who have been saying that, they have themselves appealed.
“And if they think this was such a good thing, this was done since July. How come not a single world was said about it? Not a single word was said that they have appealed. This was done in the sneak of night. That’s the way I have to put it. They sneak and put in this appeal, out of time and then seeking now to have a motion before the court for the extension for their failure to file within the time that the law prescribed.”
The lawyer said that no date has been set for the hearing of the motion.
“But I can tell you the respondents would face an uphill battle with this sham of a motion and sham of an appeal when the time comes. We are confident on our side that our appeal is strong, powerful, that the grounds of the appeal in both petitions are extremely powerful, difficult to overcome…” the lawyer said.