Letter: To appeal or not to appeal, that is the question

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Dear Sir:

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 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, united, 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 demoralizing admission that the 2015 election was free and fair after all. Still, the Party, and its zealous supporters, would easily rationalize 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 made its 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.”

Dr. 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.

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 characterization as any of the NDP and its supporters’ continuing attempt to discredit Justice John’s carefully reasoned and legally rooted 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 longest serving head — is long gone and all that remains is a new but lacklustre leader, second rate candidates, and ill-informed supporters all wildly pushing the party towards the precipice.

Small wonder that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves appears so enthusiastic about his chances of leading his Unity Labour Party to its fifth victory in a row.

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This is the third in a series of opinion pieces on the election petitions in SVG. The first two are found below.

  1. The New Democratic Party knew their election petitions would fail
  2. Which party really tried to steal the 2015 Vincentian election?

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C. ben-David

The views expressed in this letter are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Caribbean News Now’s editorial position.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding these issues, it is not a question of either or but one of doing what any opposition political party ought to do in the circumstance, and that is, to challenge this Government in its perceived illegal actions.

    One would say that the N.D.P needs to be much more vocal in raising the issues of failed Government policies but equally so, they ought to consider their likely chances in winning an Appeal in the Court system, even if it is only in seeing than a perceived illegitimate Government is routed and brought down. After all, we ought to be governed by legitimate Governments, and a government at that who observes the rule of Law in the land.

    The ruling U.L.P regime here, led by the Gonsalves extended family, constantly boast of ruling over us for these past eighteen years and as every Vincentian full well knows, during these periods, there were constant allegations of large scale cash handouts to would be voters, livestock and material gifts giveaways in an effort to influence the vote. To what scale these has taken place it is hard to tell.

    Nevertheless, the manipulation of the poll through various means, are the hallmark of dictatorships. We see that it was recently reported, that Sudan’s ousted despot, Omar al-Bashir had over three and a half hundred million in cash, stashed away in his residence, that is, including some sacks stuffed with euros and US dollars at his villa.

    The hoarding of Cash and materials for distribution at election times, together with tampering with the ballot, will always serves to undermine the democratic process. The same being so common elsewhere.

    If we as a people here in SVG are to re-join the nations of functioning democracies, it goes without saying, that utter confidence in our electoral system is truly needed, and for the NDP, the major opposition, exhausting the appeal process may thus ensure such confidence.

    As Jolly Green had previously written, the Government and the civil service’s behaviour here, leaves much to be desired. ( https://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/2019/04/08/letter-have-the-ulp-dr-gonsalves-and-vincentian-police-turned-themselves-and-half-of-the-citizenship-into-criminals/ )

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