The NDP, like most people in the country, is extremely concerned about the profoundly disturbing matter of the shooting and beating of a man just over three weeks ago and the involvement of a Senator and a senior public official and a third person as alleged assailants.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a country of laws. We believe in the Rule of Law which guarantees the equality of all citizens before the law. The NDP believes in the transparent and fair administration of justice and abhor the abuse or misuse of power.
With respect to the alleged brutal attack by Senator and Deputy Speaker Ms. Ashelle Morgan, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Mr. Karim Nelson, and another male person upon Mr. Cornelius John, a senior citizen, on the night of 13th April, 2021 while he was in the sanctity of his home, we call on Commissioner of Police Mr. Colin John and Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Sejilla McDowall to conduct an impartial, transparent investigation and to bring charges against the alleged perpetrators of this attack based on the evidence. If, as it is alleged, Mr.
Cornelius John committed any offence; he too should be investigated and charged as warranted.
Further, we condemn the recent extensive comments on the matter by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on NBC radio on 4th May, 2021 as being inappropriate and ill-advised. His attempt to excuse the inaction so far of the Commissioner of Police by saying “partisan politics is a hell of a thing… Partisan politics, if the shoe was on the other foot and it was an NDP woman and an NDP parliamentarian or high party member who had gotten involved in this, you know how the story was going to spin? ” has absolutely no merit. It is and has always been the position of the NDP that the criminal justice system must be impartial and treat everyone equally.
Has Prime Minister Gonsalves forgotten the unwanted and malicious re-arrest of then Senator Vynette Frederick by a party of male police officers immediately after the case brought against her had been dismissed by the court? Further, he must also remember the assault and arrest of NDP candidate Mr. Ben Exeter for carrying his licensed firearm concealed in his waist. For Prime Minister Gonsalves to openly excuse the alleged attack by Ms. Ashelle Morgan and company as a woman defending a woman encourages vigilante actions even as this declared justification of defending a woman appears unsubstantiated.
This serious matter must not be made a political issue. The alleged assailants must be brought to justice. It cannot be the proper functioning of the criminal justice system, especially the police, that three weeks after the shooting no one has been detained and no one has been charged. The reported comments by Commissioner of Police Mr. Colin John, in the Searchlight newspaper about cross complaints being made implies, that charges are forthcoming. Is there a credible reason for delay?
Ms. Ashelle Morgan is the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly. The NDP calls on her to step-down or be suspended from that position pending the outcome of the matter.
Finally, St. Vincent and the Grenadines boasts of a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Surely, we must be seen to be safeguarding the security and rights of every person in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to be upholding the rule of law. As we have stated, no one is above the law.
Tribute to Parnel Campbell
Mr. Parnel Campbell, QC affectionately called ‘PR’ was a long-standing senior member of the legal profession in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the OECS. He was well-known as a lawyer and politician throughout the Caribbean.
PR Campbell was a true nation builder. He contributed to national development in many ways and will be remembered as a man whose life exemplified a commitment to public service. He did so as a politician, as a political commentator and as a vocal champion of the rule law and of public order.
He worked tirelessly over several decades to promote justice and for the recognition and elevation of the dignity for ordinary people. Many benefited individually and collectively from his legal advice, free and otherwise. Through his public service “The Law and You” legal educational program that he hosted for many years on SVG TV, he was the nation’s law teacher. Ordinary people, who had not had any legal training could be heard expounding with legal principles or asserting rights they had learned about from his program with confidence because, as they often put it, “Campbell say so”.
PR Campbell was a stalwart of our party, the New Democratic Party. He served long and in various roles. He was an outstanding Chairman of the party, who used his renowned skill as an organizer to organize many activities for the party.
His career in Parliament began in the early days of the NDP government. He was appointed Senator in 1985 for the NDP government led by Sir James Mitchell. In 1987, he was elected to Parliament having won the by-election in East Kingstown which followed the sudden death of the incumbent NDP representative, Mr. Eddie Griffith. In the General Elections of 1989, he decided to run for Central Kingstown, one of the new constituencies that was formed for the General Elections that year. He won and represented that constituency until 1998. He was an effective and attentive representative for the people.
PR Campbell served this nation as an exceptional Attorney General, from 1985 to 1987 when he was Senator and from 1987 to 1995, as an elected Member of Parliament. As Attorney General, he played a critical role in the preparation of the Revised Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in changing laws that discriminated against women in our country.
He held other Ministerial and notable positions in the NDP government. He was Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and Minister of Justice, information and Culture. As Minister of Information, he ensured that all religious denominations were given equal opportunity to broadcast live their worship services on NBC radio (including the Spiritual Baptist of which he was a member). Later, out of politics but still very much in public service, he served as Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission.
He will be truly missed. We extend our deepest condolences to his family. May God comfort them and may he receive our friend into his arms.