Categorized | News, Regional

HIGH Court dismisses election petitions of opposition party

T&T High Court

T&T High Court

by STAFF WRITER

By Peter Richards

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 19, CMC – A High Court judge Friday dismissed the election petitions filed by the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) challenging the results of the September 2015 general elections acknowledging that while the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) had breached the election laws, there was not sufficient evidence to declare the polls null and void.

In a 54 page ruling before a packed court room, Justice Mira Dean Armorer said that “I have in these petitions strove to hold the balance to protect the will of the majority, while ensuring that the patent mistakes of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) not reduce the election of 2015 to a mere sham.”

She said it is her view that the elections of 2015 in Trinidad and Tobago “were substantially in accordance with the prescribed law and it does not appear to be that the breaches affect the results.”

“It is therefore my view and I hold that the election petition should be and is here by dismissed.”

The UNC had originally challenged the results in the San Fernando West, La Horquetta/Talparo, Toco/Sangre Grande, Tunapuna, St Joseph and Moruga/Tableland constituencies, which they lost and considered marginal. But the High Court had earlier dismissed the petition in the La Horquetta/Talparo, on the grounds that it had been filed late.

The UNC, the biggest partner in the coalition People’s Partnership government that had governed the country from 2010-15, had in petitions challenged the unilateral decision of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to extend the voting period by one hour in Trinidad only due to the inclement weather on polling day.

The People’s National Movement (PNM) won 23 of the 41 seats that were at stake while the coalition, which had won 29 seats in 2010, was only able to win 18.

In her ruling, the judge agreed that the EBC had acted “in good faith” when it sought to extend the voting period, but noted that its action breached the election rules.

“Torrential rains and flooding on the 7th September 2015 may have impel the EBC to issue the directive which they did. Nonetheless…the weather conditions did not confer on the EBC the powers to direct that the law be broken,” Justice Dean Armorer said.

She said the EBC is in itself “a creature of statute ought to at all time to abide by the clear dictates of the law not more to purport to dispense with those dictates even if it is faced with an apparent unsurmountable problem.

““Accordingly it is my view and I hold that the extension of the poll on 7th September was illegal and election officers who failed to close the polls at six pm acted in breach of Section 71 of the Election Rules,” she added.

Faris Al Rawi

Attorney General Faris Al Rawi

But while she agreed that the EBC had broken the rules even though it had acted in good faith to accommodate the voters, there is no fundamental reason why the court should declare the elections null and void.

In her one hour ruling, the judge said that it was clear that the majority of voters had exercised their franchise before the extension and also there had been substantial compliance with the law.

She also ruled against the position by the attorneys for the UNC that there had been corrupt practices during the election, noting “an election agent could only be guilty of corruption if he knows (a person) is not entitled to vote”.

She ruled that the petitions had not identified any such agent and that no one had been named and therefore was not given an opportunity to be heard and defend him or herself.

She said both parties had complained about being affected by the extended hour, but added that the evidence showed that it was the activities of the parties who were affected and not the voters and that in the St. Joseph constituency as much as 71 per cent of voters had cast ballots.

In an immediate reaction to the ruling, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, whose San Fernando West seat was among those being contested, told reporters said the judge gave “a very comprehensive judgement.

“She took us threw the law, discussion and reasoning behind her position in rejecting the petitions. Effectively the matter before the High Court is now over, the petitioners obviously have the right of appeal in this matter,” he said.

Al Rawi said that while the judge found there “was a breach of the Election Rules, however she then went on to the second discussion as to whether that breach was one which would have (negated) the election. “She found there was a complete fairness in the process, that there was no denial of any right, there being no express right to vote, but she looked at the position and considered it was a full and fair election.”

kammmmmmla
Kamla Persad Bissessar

He said the petition was “due process at work, the judge certainly took available all the submissions volunteered on behalf of the two parties that were in defence of this matter,” he said, adding that the judge had made an award of costs in favour of the successful candidates of the PNM “and therefore the UNC petitioners …will have to pay costs”.

“What happens next is that obviously the appellate process must kick in and therefore on must abide by the decisions of the Court of Appeal which is the final Court of Appeal in our jurisdictional matters such as this,” he told reporters.

But former prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar termed the ruling a victory for democracy and spoke of the matter going to the Court of Appeal.

She said that the ruling showed that the EBC aced “illegally and the results coming out of such breach of the law…and should be set aside.

“That’s the next step, we continue to fight and as I said I am fortified in my firm view that victory will be ours. I want to register very clearly that this judgement today is a victory for the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said, hinting that the judgement could have an impact on the upcoming Local Government elections.

“So the EBC knows it place and must know it place that it cannot change laws by press release. It cannot interfere with the law and the procedure governing election, which is the next election we have …very soon any time after the 21st of October.”

Leave a Reply

TMR print pages

Newsletter

Archives

CARICOM – Staff Vacancy

CXC HEADQUARTERS - Executive Search

https://indd.adobe.com/embed/2b4deb22-cf03-4509-9bbd-938c7e8ecc7d

A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

T&T High Court

T&T High Court

by STAFF WRITER

By Peter Richards

Insert Ads Here

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 19, CMC – A High Court judge Friday dismissed the election petitions filed by the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) challenging the results of the September 2015 general elections acknowledging that while the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) had breached the election laws, there was not sufficient evidence to declare the polls null and void.

In a 54 page ruling before a packed court room, Justice Mira Dean Armorer said that “I have in these petitions strove to hold the balance to protect the will of the majority, while ensuring that the patent mistakes of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) not reduce the election of 2015 to a mere sham.”

She said it is her view that the elections of 2015 in Trinidad and Tobago “were substantially in accordance with the prescribed law and it does not appear to be that the breaches affect the results.”

“It is therefore my view and I hold that the election petition should be and is here by dismissed.”

The UNC had originally challenged the results in the San Fernando West, La Horquetta/Talparo, Toco/Sangre Grande, Tunapuna, St Joseph and Moruga/Tableland constituencies, which they lost and considered marginal. But the High Court had earlier dismissed the petition in the La Horquetta/Talparo, on the grounds that it had been filed late.

The UNC, the biggest partner in the coalition People’s Partnership government that had governed the country from 2010-15, had in petitions challenged the unilateral decision of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to extend the voting period by one hour in Trinidad only due to the inclement weather on polling day.

The People’s National Movement (PNM) won 23 of the 41 seats that were at stake while the coalition, which had won 29 seats in 2010, was only able to win 18.

In her ruling, the judge agreed that the EBC had acted “in good faith” when it sought to extend the voting period, but noted that its action breached the election rules.

“Torrential rains and flooding on the 7th September 2015 may have impel the EBC to issue the directive which they did. Nonetheless…the weather conditions did not confer on the EBC the powers to direct that the law be broken,” Justice Dean Armorer said.

She said the EBC is in itself “a creature of statute ought to at all time to abide by the clear dictates of the law not more to purport to dispense with those dictates even if it is faced with an apparent unsurmountable problem.

““Accordingly it is my view and I hold that the extension of the poll on 7th September was illegal and election officers who failed to close the polls at six pm acted in breach of Section 71 of the Election Rules,” she added.

Faris Al Rawi

Attorney General Faris Al Rawi

But while she agreed that the EBC had broken the rules even though it had acted in good faith to accommodate the voters, there is no fundamental reason why the court should declare the elections null and void.

In her one hour ruling, the judge said that it was clear that the majority of voters had exercised their franchise before the extension and also there had been substantial compliance with the law.

She also ruled against the position by the attorneys for the UNC that there had been corrupt practices during the election, noting “an election agent could only be guilty of corruption if he knows (a person) is not entitled to vote”.

She ruled that the petitions had not identified any such agent and that no one had been named and therefore was not given an opportunity to be heard and defend him or herself.

She said both parties had complained about being affected by the extended hour, but added that the evidence showed that it was the activities of the parties who were affected and not the voters and that in the St. Joseph constituency as much as 71 per cent of voters had cast ballots.

In an immediate reaction to the ruling, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, whose San Fernando West seat was among those being contested, told reporters said the judge gave “a very comprehensive judgement.

“She took us threw the law, discussion and reasoning behind her position in rejecting the petitions. Effectively the matter before the High Court is now over, the petitioners obviously have the right of appeal in this matter,” he said.

Al Rawi said that while the judge found there “was a breach of the Election Rules, however she then went on to the second discussion as to whether that breach was one which would have (negated) the election. “She found there was a complete fairness in the process, that there was no denial of any right, there being no express right to vote, but she looked at the position and considered it was a full and fair election.”

kammmmmmla
Kamla Persad Bissessar

He said the petition was “due process at work, the judge certainly took available all the submissions volunteered on behalf of the two parties that were in defence of this matter,” he said, adding that the judge had made an award of costs in favour of the successful candidates of the PNM “and therefore the UNC petitioners …will have to pay costs”.

“What happens next is that obviously the appellate process must kick in and therefore on must abide by the decisions of the Court of Appeal which is the final Court of Appeal in our jurisdictional matters such as this,” he told reporters.

But former prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar termed the ruling a victory for democracy and spoke of the matter going to the Court of Appeal.

She said that the ruling showed that the EBC aced “illegally and the results coming out of such breach of the law…and should be set aside.

“That’s the next step, we continue to fight and as I said I am fortified in my firm view that victory will be ours. I want to register very clearly that this judgement today is a victory for the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said, hinting that the judgement could have an impact on the upcoming Local Government elections.

“So the EBC knows it place and must know it place that it cannot change laws by press release. It cannot interfere with the law and the procedure governing election, which is the next election we have …very soon any time after the 21st of October.”