Judge John Benjamin spoke specifically to the eligibility of the two candidates to be nominated. He concluded that they were not found guilty of any criminal offense in the previous election case that resulted in the St. John’s electoral seat being declared vacant, as a result of irregularities associated with the 2011 Island Elections.
Benjamin said that there was no evidence to prove that both men were guilty; therefore the injunction was struck out. This was a decision that the NRP had hoped for and this was obvious from the reactions of their supporters who were in attendance this morning for the reading of the decision.
Gathered on the outside of the courthouse in Charlestown were supporters of both parties.
Inside the courthouse for CCM were Vance Amory, party leader, candidate Keith Scarborough and Alexis Jeffers. Former NRP candidate and Island Assemblyman Victor J Martin was also on hand to provide support for his party.
Members of the CCM immediately exited and left the court following the decision, but made themselves available for questions from the media; so too did the members and representatives of the NRP who lingered around talking to the media and the public.
Lawyer Henry Browne QC, (who along with Barbara Hartman and Herman Liburd, appeared before the court on behalf of the NRP), reinforced the argument and now the findings that there was no criminal offense against both Parry and Daniel. At one point during the proceedings, Dr. Browne asked the judge about the claims of fraud and Justice Benjamin confirmed that there was no case that both men were guilty of any fraud.
The lawyers appearing for CCM were dahlia and Perry Joseph and Dane Hamilton QC (though he was absent in court today for the decision).
Both candidates were challenged by the opposition Concerned Citizens Movement, CCM, which argued that because they had benefited from the misconduct of the former Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Leroy Benjamin and his Senior Registration Officer in Nevis, at the time, Bernadette Lawrence, they were not eligible to offer themselves as candidates for the Island Elections in a few days’ time.
Lawyers for CCM had argued the day before (Thursday 17th January), that both Parry and Daniel featured prominently in the disputed elections of July 11, 2011 which led to the historic decisions by the High Court and Court of Appeal to declare the election of Hensley Daniel null and void. In addition the Court of Appeal castigated both Mr. Parry and Mr. Daniel of being “guilty of misconduct and bad faith,” they argued.
CCM added that “Mr. Parry was also severely chastised for his role in using the resources of the State owned media exclusively for his NRP Party and refusing to permit the CCM access to the State owned Media. In addition, both Courts found as proven facts that Bernadette Lawrence, disgraced Registration Officer who illegally disenfranchised hundreds of perceived CCM supporters just days before the July 11 2011 elections, did what she did to benefit her party, the NRP, and that she put her party ahead of her duties under the law. The now disgraced supervisor of Elections, Leroy Benjamin, was equally castigated and he and Bernadette Lawrence were both found guilty of misfeasance in public office. Both have since resigned,” argued CCM.
The papers filed by the CCM were seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Parry and Daniel. Of Parry it is said that he cannot contest another election for at least 5 years under the provisions of section 28(3) of the Constitution and of Daniel it is said that persons (being the now disgraced electoral officials) promoted or procured his election through illegal or corrupt practices and that such practices were so pervasive that his election was declared void. In such a case, section 97 of the National Assembly Elections Act makes it plain that he cannot contest the election to fill the seat created by the vacancy, claimed the CCM.
Lawyers for the NRP argued however that the case was without validity.
A few days ago, in a very heated response on Tuesday, 15th January, 2013, one of the senior lawyers who advised the incumbent Nevis Reformation Party, NRP, Mr. Anthony Astaphan, dismissed the actions of the Concerned Citizens Movement, CCM, as a “dishonest piece of political trickery and one that is a desperate political act by (CCM’s Deputy Leader), Mark (Brantley).
The NRP lawyer was of the view that Brantley could not be serious because he conceded before, at the Court of Appeal, that the findings of misfeasance against Mr. Daniel and Mr. Joseph Parry were improperly made.
“I really don’t know how to describe it and would appear extra ordinarily disrespectful, if I really had to say what I thought of it,” stated Astaphan.
In rather colourful language Astaphan described the CCM argument irrelevant, saying “the issue is as irrelevant as horse manure is to law”. The NRP lawyer accepted that the Election Laws have provisions that merely state that parliament may prescribe laws for certain matters if persons are tried and convicted by a court of a criminal offense related to certain matters, and as such they would be disqualified.
But the Dominican based lawyer argues that there has been no law prescribed by parliament, therefore there has been any conviction of a criminal offense of Parry and Daniel.
Apparently the judge felt that the case of the plaintiff was strong enough and he therefore struck out the case of the CCM, paving the way for the two NRP candidates to continue with their campaign to be elected.
Had Parry and Daniel lost this battle, they would not have been able to contest the poll. This would have meant that Keith ‘Dis N’ Dat’ Scarborough would have been declared the winner for St. Thomas Constituency which has been won by Parry since the 1990s. Equally, Daniel would not have been able to run in the election and Mark Brantley would have been the automatic winner.
There are five seats up for grabs in the elections. Both parties are entering the elections, previously holding two seats.