New Democratic Party candidate for Central Leeward Ben Exeter became emotional on Thursday as he said he has remained true to his promise to constituents five years ago to fight on their behalf.
Exeter, who, as a first time candidate, failed in his bid to win Central Leeward for the NDP in 2015, said that after his years in Canada, he came back to SVG to give back.
“I left as a boy and returned as a man, thankful for what this country has given to me and my mother and father: understanding the value of hard work and charity,” he said at the NDP’s virtual meeting broadcast on social media and radio on Thursday.
“When the election of 2015 was stolen, the people of Central Leeward stood with me on that fateful day of the recount — we stood side by side, and it was your presence that gave me the strength to overcome fraud and illegal activities that stole the elections from under us,” he said as he heaved a heavy sigh, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes as his voice appear to break.
“It was your presence that gave me strength when they locked me up –as I heard your voices outside the barracks,” he said.
Ben was arrested on Dec. 29 amidst formalities and protest as the parliament opened after the Unity Labour Party was returned to office for a fourth consecutive term.
He was charged with resisting the arrest of two police officers and assaulting one of them.
“It was your presence on social media, and many of you in the courtroom as we fought for justice during the election petition,” said Exeter, who was freed of the charges in November 2016 when Magistrate Rickie Burnett upheld a submission by defence counsel Kay Bacchus-Baptiste — now an NDP senator and candidate — to throw out the charges for want of prosecution.
Shabazaah GunMunro George, then a student and NDP youth activist who filmed Exeter’s arrest was also charged and later freed of the charges.
“You stood with me, as I’ve stood with you — fighting for what is rightfully ours. Not turning away and not running away,” said Exeter, who, along with Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, the NDP candidate for North Windward, brought petitions challenging the results of the 2015 vote.
The petitions were dismissed for lack of evidence and Exeter and Baptiste have filed appeals challenging the ruling of the court.
“So here I am, again, still standing. And here you are, too, still standing. We are still standing and ready to fight back. We refused to be broken. We are ready to fight back. We shall stand together. We shall march together. And we shall make the change together,” Exeter said.
“We know that this will be a fight and we are ready for that fight. In fact, since 2015, we never stopped fighting. So that fight continues.
Unbowed! Unconquered! Uncompromised! Central Leeward, we are standing together and we are fighting back. We shall go forward on our feet and not on our knees.
“St Vincent and the Grenadines, we are standing together and we are fighting back.
Elections are around the corner. Don’t let them catch you off guard,” he said and urged persons to register to vote.