We are all aware that on the 19th November, 2021, Magistrate Bertie Pompey acquitted Ashelle Morgan, a government Senator, and Karim Nelson, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in the office of the DPP, of the criminal charges brought against them by the State arising out of the shooting of Mr. Cornelius John a private citizen, after hearing no case submissions made by their Defence Counsel.
In June 2021, Senator Morgan was charged with assaulting Mr. John with intent to commit wounding; while Karim Nelson was charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding and unlawfully discharging his firearm at Mr. John.
From the outset, Mr. John’s plight stoked outrage and disbelief amongst all and sundry. In fact, the Director of Public Prosecution, Ms. Sejilla McDowall in a Media Release issued on 24th June, 2021, admitted that the matter had caused much public disquiet and wide spread alarm. It was not surprising then that members of the public had taken a keen interest in the verdict and had reacted strongly to it.
It took some two weeks before public attention was drawn to Mr. John’s shooting, as he fought to recover in physical and emotional pain. It was not until 19th May, 2021, after mounting pressure and outrage from every cross section of Vincentian society that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions requested that further investigative word be done into Mr. John’s shooting. It took a further five weeks until June 24th, before the DPP advised the Commissioner of Police to lay charges against Senator Morgan and Mr. Nelson. At no time during this process were any of the accused individuals arrested.
What’s more, the wounded Cornelius John was also slapped with two charges by the State for allegedly using threatening language to his wife, and a third charge for supposedly using threatening language against Ashelle Morgan. Mrs. John would have no part of the charade and duly informed the Court on August (10th) that she had no desire to proceed against her husband.
The Party’s Effort
The New Democratic Party has unreservedly stood in solidarity with Cornelius and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in ensuring that pressure was brought to bear on the authorities, so that the investigation proceeded and charges would be laid where the evidence led.
Nine weeks after the incident and with no arrests or charges in sight, we wrote to several regional and international organizations drawing their attention to the case of Mr. John and imploring that enquiry be made into the matter to ensure that the administration of justice runs the true course and rule of law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is adhered to. We stood in solidarity with members of the public on each and every occasion that they peacefully protested outside the House of Parliament and on the streets of Kingstown in support of Mr. John from as early as May, 2021. As the people’s party, we stand by the tenets that there must be equal justice for all.
The conduct of this matter has left an unsavoury taste in the mouths of many. “Justice must not only be done it must also be seen to be done”. Large cross sections of the public are left with the uneasy feeling that “justice is for a chosen few, not for all”.
In the face of this ordeal and even after the outcome of this case, Cornelius John exhibits admirable faith and an indomitable spirit. I note his brief remarks after the magistrate’s decision and agree that the way this case has unfolded was not only about him but was also about the injustice being faced by so many in our nation. His faith and ours reassure us that God will see us through these challenging times. However, while I strongly believe that faith is a cornerstone of human strength, the Bible teaches that “faith without works is dead”. As a nation, we must re-double our efforts in ensuring that Cornelius John’s case does not become the norm and that there can truly be “justice for one and justice for all”.
We have a country to build. An NDP Government will ensure there is reform of the justice system as a means of restoring faith in those who have lost faith. We wait to see what if any steps will be taken by the State arising out of the Magistrate’s decision to acquit Ms. Morgan and Mr. Nelson. We support the call for justice and equality before the law.
NDP is opposed to making the COVID- 19 vaccine mandatory (Cont’d)
In light of the high level of distrust of authority and the COVID- 19 vaccines, it is foolhardy to proceed with the approach that it is “my way or the highway”. The ULP administration has historically done nothing more than deprecate the views of others. They have stopped listening and therefore choose to take heavy-handed approaches when their leadership failures are laid bare for the world to see.
The poor uptake reflects the failure of the ULP Administration to listen and engage with our people. To re-emphasize, the NDP does not support vaccine mandates. We believe that ethical and collaborative leadership is better and is needed here.
In the interest of our people, especially those who are directly on the receiving of the policy will suffer most. We call on the ULP administration to end its vaccine mandate and the firing of public sector workers. Stop victimizing people who have already been bearing so much pain and who have been carrying the fight against COVID- 19 in many ways.
Let us instead focus on communication and collaboration. Let us shut no one out. Let us not divide our people and threat them as the enemy. COVID- 19 is the enemy, not public sector workers. It will require all of us to work together to get to the other side of this pandemic.