Williams:  I was only trying to defend  rights of  Vincentians
December 18, 2012

Williams: I was only trying to defend rights of Vincentians

Burton Williams, the opposition politician convicted and fined last week, said he was only trying to defend the rights of Vincentians at the protest last year that triggered the charges.{{more}}

Williams, a former minister of health, told SEARCHLIGHT Thursday that since the end of colonialism, no government has prosecuted it’s opponent in this country like the current administration.

“I am talking about political opponents. So it is specifically for the purpose of political advantage,” he said of the Dr Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party.

On Thursday, Senior Magistrate Donald Browne found Williams guilty of attempted damage to property and that, within the precincts of the House of Assembly, he behaved in a manner in which a breach of peace was likely to be occasioned, on January 28, 2011.

Williams was ordered to pay $2,500 or spend three months in jail. His lawyers are already in the process of appealing the decision.

“I was not charged for rape,” Williams, a former Member of Parliament, said shortly after the ruling. “I was not charged for stealing. I was not charged for murder,” said Williams, who was an NDP candidate in the 2010 general elections.

“All I stood for was to prevent the government to bring to the view of the public, the fact that the government was attempting to change a piece of legislation which was intended to circumvent matters that were in the court.”

The charges stem from Williams’ action outside Parliament on January 28, 2011, where lawmakers were debating proposed changes to the Criminal Code.

‘Struggle will continue’

Williams commended his lawyers, Olin Dennie and Andreas Coombs, for doing a “remarkable” job on the case.

He further thanked his family and supporters for all their encouraging words throughout the trial.

“My only intention was to defend the right of Vincentians to have a government that is acting justly on their behalf.”

He said that he is not deterred by the court’s decision, stating “my struggle will continue”.

“You know what they have done? They have made me more determined to win the constituency of South Windward and make sure we change this government. That is the rest of my life. To make sure that South Windward is in government and make sure we remove this government which has done too much…” Williams said of the constituency he represented under the NDP administration.

Shock at decision

And lawyer Dennie said they were “shocked” at the magistrate’s decision.

“Based on evidence adduced at trial and legal principles, which we submitted to the court, we are shocked at the verdict. We have all confidence the Court of Appeal will overturn the verdict,” Dennie said Thursday.

Coombs, speaking Thursday, said he felt the law was in their favour, stating that he thought the matter would have gone their way.

On the day of the incident, the NDP staged a march and rally in protest of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Code 2011 Bill which was being read in Parliament.

Special Services Unit officer Sergeant 492 Ornal Jacobs told the court that on that day he drew his pistol and pointed it at persons who were using a barricade to force their way through the main gate to the House of Assembly.

‘Nothing personal’

Successful crown counsel Colin John told this publication that the evidence against Williams was overwhelming and that the magistrate made the correct decision.

“This is nothing personal. It’s just that an offence was committed and as a prosecutor, I did my job and did so to the best of my ability,” John said.

Browne, in his written ruling, described Williams as “not an ordinary citizen”, stating that Williams is a widely experienced man who has had the honour to be a Member of Parliament, representing not only his constituent of South Windward for 10 years, but also he was minister of health.

He said, people who are or who have been in positions of trust, authority or responsibility “must act lawfully and responsibly at all times and should not bring themselves down to the level of law breakers by misconception and rebelliousness.

“The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines expect better from our politicians, whether in or out of the House of Assembly,” he said.

The magistrate commended the police for exercising “such great” restraint in dealing with “what was undoubtedly a volatile situation”.