The appeal filed by the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in the two election petitions cases will be heard in February 2020, says Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, a member of the petitioner’s legal team.
In March, Justice Stanley John dismissed, for a lack of evidence, the petitions contesting the results in North Windward and Central Leeward in the December 2015 polls.
They were two of the eight seats that electoral officials say the Unity Labour Party (ULP) won for a fourth consecutive term in office.
In April, the NDP filed an appeal, challenging Justice John’s decision.
However, in July, lawyers for the government (respondents) filed what they said was a cross appeal which the Court of Appeal dismissed, saying it was not a cross appeal.
This paves the way for the NDP’s appeal to be heard, with February 2020 being the scheduled date.
Speaking on the NDP’s “New Times” on NICE Radio on Friday, Bacchus-Baptiste, who is also a senator for the NDP, said:
“That is the end of them and their so-called cross appeal so that what is before the court now is just our appeal. There is no opposition, nothing, no cross appeal; there is just our appeal that is before he court and this appeal would be heard in February and we have very, very strong points and I think that that is weighing very heavily on the ULP because they dare not let this appeal be heard.”
Bacchus-Baptiste, who is an NDP senator and candidate for the party in the next general elections, speculated that the government would call an election ahead of the hearing of the appeal.
They would have to call an election before because they dare not take these appeals to the court… There are too many issues wrong with them; too many things they did wrong.
“You cannot mis-design a ballot paper; you design a ballot paper in such a way that you can cheat and hope that the case will go to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal will sanction that. That is the main thing they did and I want all persons to look out for the ballot papers this time because that is the way the election was being stolen.”
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Oct. 27 that general elections will be held by the end of 2020, ahead of the March 2021 constitutional deadline.
Bacchus-Baptiste said that a date is set for the sitting of the Appeal Court in February but her team may take some action, if necessary, to have the appeal heard earlier.
She said it took her legal team longer than expected to put everything in place for the appeal.
One of the issues was the preparation of the transcript, which is usually done by the court.
“But our High Court said that they cannot provide these transcripts in time and we understand because they are very, very long and so we have opted to pay for them ourselves,” she said.
She said this is an expensive process but the petitioners, along with the registrar have selected the persons recommended by the court and the transcripts are being prepared.
“Once they are prepared, we put the record together so that we can file the record of appeal to have our appeal heard,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
“So I want Vincentians to know that this appeal looms large and that it will be heard because we are not giving up, especially as we said we know that they have no answer to the North Windward petition because of the grave errors which, from the evidence of Ville Davis [the returning officer] himself, supported our case, and, of course, the evidence of Cheryl Sutherland. And, of course, we know that they have grave issues also with the Central Leeward petition and we are ready to do our appeal.”
On Oct. 22, the Court of Appeal dismissed the notice of cross appeal filed by the government.
The court held that the filing of the respondents was not in fact a notice of cross appeal as it sought to appeal a whole different decision of the court that predated the matter which is the subject of the appeal.
On July 15, 2019, lawyers for the government filed a cross appeal of the June 30, 2017 ruling by Justice Esco Henry in which she declared the recognisances for the petitions valid.
Among other things, the respondents said that Justice Henry had erred in law when she made that finding.
“Now, this is a moot point. This goes way back to 2016. They say they are appealing the 2019 judgement but they are going back to applications that were filed in 2016.”
She said the respondents had two motions in the court at the same time and the law says that that cannot be done.
“The judge upheld the law by saying you cannot have two motions subsisting at the same time.”
Bacchus-Baptiste said the government’s legal team is now saying that Justice Henry was wrong and they were appealing that decision.
The respondents were also claiming that Justice Henry erred by failing to properly consider and hold that the chief justice could only make election petitions rules consistent with the Representation of the People’s Act.
“Well, if the Representation of the People’s Act is what deals with petitions, doesn’t it make sense that election petition rules would have to be consistent with the RPA?” the senator asked.
“They did not appeal this from 2017. They waited until 2019 after they won the petition. If they won the petition and they are very confident about their win, why are they going to do a cross appeal?”
Bacchus-Baptiste further noted that the government’s legal team admitted that the cross appeal was way out of time.
She said that even if the cross appeal were of a valid point, it should have been filed within 14 days of the petitioner’s appeal, which was filed on April 30, 2019.
“These eminent lawyers, people like [Douglas] Mendes and [Anthony] Astaphan and so forth, they are supposed to be good lawyers, wouldn’t they have known that if they were going to file a cross appeal they would have had to file it by the 15th of May?
“… There are so many things wrong with this to show that this is only clutching at straws and they are only using this to try to delay our petitions because they are so afraid to have a court, the Court of Appeal, adjudicate on our petitions. They are so afraid.”
She said that the respondents waited until Aug. 14 to file a notice of motion for extension of time, giving, among their reasons, that they had changed lawyers since Justice Henry’s ruling two years earlier.
“This is so ridiculous — the reasons they are giving,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
“They actually said no prejudice would be caused by the delay. So, our petitions, which the Court of Appeal [had] said should be heard expeditiously and were not, they now want to delay our petitions by filing a cross appeal and yet, they say there would be no prejudice caused and that it has a good prospect of success,” she said.