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Lawyer slams EBC’s decision to extend voting period in Trinidad

by STAFF WRITER

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 29, CMC – A British Queen Counsel has described as “a shambles” the decision of electoral officials to extend by one hour the voting period in Trinidad during the September 7 general elections that led to the victory of the People’s National Movement (PNM).

Timothy Straker, the lead attorney for the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), which is challenging the results of five constituencies in the general election, told the High Court that  in any election the rule of law prevailed and the Representation of the People’s Act and the Constitution set out “enormous sequence of steps to be taken.

“And there is the opportunity for things to go wrong,” he argued, noting however that the legislation was there to protect the elections and any minor error were accepted provided that they did not materially affect the results of the polls.

But he told the court that in the case of the elections here, it could not be sensibly said that it was held in accordance with the law.

The UNC, the major partner in the coalition People’s Partnership government of Kamla Persad Bissessar that lost the election, argues that the decision to extend the voting period by an hour, resulted in its defeat.

Straker said there were substantial breaches of election rules and alleged corrupt practices of election officials when the decision was taken to extend the voting time in Trinidad only.

He used the recent decision by Britons to vote to leave the European Union after 43 years last week, saying special legislation had to be passed to extend the time.

He argued that any change of the polling hours in Trinidad annulled the electoral process, saying “you cannot change the rules” adding that the Elections and Boundaries (EBC) Returning Officers could only conduct the electoral process set out by Parliament in the legislation.
“It cannot be said that the breaches did not affect the results,” he said, noting that in one of the disputed constituencies the UNC candidate, Clifton De Coteau, said that he was not aware of the extension of time and there were complaints by supporters in that constituency that they too were unable to vote.

“It is embarrassing to suggest there was compliance (to the rules). There was no compliance. The Laws were breached and corrupt practices were engaged in,” Straker said.

Earlier, attorneys representing the EBC’s Returning Officers and the PNM had sought unsuccessfully to delay the start of the trial by one week in order to re-calibrate and analyse the evidence which will now have to be considered by the judge.

But Straker strongly objected and Justice Mira Dean-Armorer, who is hearing the five election petitions, ruled that any objections to the evidence can be dealt with during the trial.

The hearing continues Wednesday.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

by STAFF WRITER

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 29, CMC – A British Queen Counsel has described as “a shambles” the decision of electoral officials to extend by one hour the voting period in Trinidad during the September 7 general elections that led to the victory of the People’s National Movement (PNM).

Timothy Straker, the lead attorney for the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), which is challenging the results of five constituencies in the general election, told the High Court that  in any election the rule of law prevailed and the Representation of the People’s Act and the Constitution set out “enormous sequence of steps to be taken.

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“And there is the opportunity for things to go wrong,” he argued, noting however that the legislation was there to protect the elections and any minor error were accepted provided that they did not materially affect the results of the polls.

But he told the court that in the case of the elections here, it could not be sensibly said that it was held in accordance with the law.

The UNC, the major partner in the coalition People’s Partnership government of Kamla Persad Bissessar that lost the election, argues that the decision to extend the voting period by an hour, resulted in its defeat.

Straker said there were substantial breaches of election rules and alleged corrupt practices of election officials when the decision was taken to extend the voting time in Trinidad only.

He used the recent decision by Britons to vote to leave the European Union after 43 years last week, saying special legislation had to be passed to extend the time.

He argued that any change of the polling hours in Trinidad annulled the electoral process, saying “you cannot change the rules” adding that the Elections and Boundaries (EBC) Returning Officers could only conduct the electoral process set out by Parliament in the legislation.
“It cannot be said that the breaches did not affect the results,” he said, noting that in one of the disputed constituencies the UNC candidate, Clifton De Coteau, said that he was not aware of the extension of time and there were complaints by supporters in that constituency that they too were unable to vote.

“It is embarrassing to suggest there was compliance (to the rules). There was no compliance. The Laws were breached and corrupt practices were engaged in,” Straker said.

Earlier, attorneys representing the EBC’s Returning Officers and the PNM had sought unsuccessfully to delay the start of the trial by one week in order to re-calibrate and analyse the evidence which will now have to be considered by the judge.

But Straker strongly objected and Justice Mira Dean-Armorer, who is hearing the five election petitions, ruled that any objections to the evidence can be dealt with during the trial.

The hearing continues Wednesday.