Lennox Linton (left) and Anthony Astaphan SC
By Ken Richards
ROSEAU, Dominica (WINN) -- Police in Dominica have been accused of double standards in the handling of threats of violence made on a political platform.
Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) leader Lennox Linton made the allegation while commenting on criminal charges brought against one of the party’s election candidates, Senator Danny Lugay.
Lugay was arrested and charged for inciting the murder of Senior Counsel Alick Lawrence – a member of the Electoral Commission.
During a political meeting in Soufriere in July, Lugay in expressing frustration over electoral reform said, “If I was not a believer I would take out some people … some people need to die.”
Lugay later apologized for the statements
Linton said similar comments have been made in the past by a key activist of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), lawyer Lennox Lawrence, which were treated differently.
He alleged that the police were influenced by Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, an adviser to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt, to take action against Lugay.
According to Linton there is evidence that the police did not act independently in the matter.
"I filed a complaint with the police in 2013, when [Lennox] Lawrence made what I consider to be even more demanding, even more serious statements of incitement to murder and violence against members of the United Workers Party, against staffers at Q95, against staffers at the Chronicle Newspaper... I filed a complaint... we heard absolutely nothing about it... I understood that they called Lennox Lawrence in for questioning, and the matter died with his questioning. They never went any further," he told WINN FM's The Bigger Picture.
"How then one year later, for comments in the same vein... you the same police authority can find it possible to charge Danny Lugay? That tells me... that they have one standard for me... and another standard for the government supporters, and I believe when you listen to people like Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan... the police went out and did exactly what he said needs to be done,” Linton said.
Astaphan denied that the police were influenced by the political directorate to act against Lugay.
"That has nothing to do with me whatsoever. Alick Lawrence who was mentioned, made a specific complaint to the police and sought [advice] from a number of individuals including myself, and decided to prosecute the matter."
Astaphan said Lugay’s “people should die” comment was made on the political platform more than once, reflects a UWP policy of violence, and on that basis it was necessary to take him to court.
"It’s the second time he's done it, and I... think the police has taken the decision that there's a fundamental distinction between whatever kind of comments you want to make on a platform, distasteful and otherwise, and specifically targeting individuals and indicating that if were you not a Christian or a believer you would kill them yourself, and then ending up by suggesting that some people in Dominica deserve to die... That is crossing the Rubicon of any civilized political debate, and the police made a decision and I applaud them for it,” Astaphan said.
However, UWP’s Linton insists that DLP activists have made equally offensive public comments.
"And given statements made by the very members of the government that they would hunt down members of the opposition like Obama goes after Al Qaeda and get rid of them etcetera, and we'll mash them up, we'll fight them... etcetera, etcetera, we've had these statements coming from the other side. Nobody has apologized,” he asserted.
Linton is laying the blame for much of the vitriol making the rounds on local media and social media at the doorstep of Astaphan.
Astaphan hosts a DLP radio programme called The Next Level Show.
"You have to understand what we are under, the leadership and the candidates of the United Workers Party, is an unrelenting assault on our characters, on our integrity by Tony Astaphan, Lennox Lawrence, and the other handlers of the Dominica Labour Party. That is fueling... a lot of anger in the country... I think Mr Skerritt needs to say to Anthony Astaphan in particular, all this hate and prejudice you're pushing in Dominica is leading us in the wrong direction," Linton said.
But Astaphan claimed that he too has been threatened.
"Members and supporters of the United Workers Party have set up a Facebook saying 'Enemy of the State,' where their supporters in Dominica and the Diaspora say that I should be executed by any means necessary and thrown off the island."
Astaphan argued that his radio programme is intended to give the other side, meaning the position of the governing Dominica Labour Party.
"I am not going to be intimidated, and I am not going to run away, and I'm not going to hide, and I'm going to continue with what I'm doing on the radio and elsewhere to ensure that the other side is told,” he said.
Supporters of the DLP and the UWP are engaged in a virtual war on social networks, where character assassination, what’s known locally as mepuis
, and violent language feature prominently.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network