Categorized | News, Regional

Removal of ABEC chairman illegal, says Antigua judge

Attorney Gerry Watt and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer

Antigua — A high court judge in Antigua has ruled as illegal the purported removal of Sir Gerald Watt QC as chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) in 2010 by the governor general acting under the direction and recommendation of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

In a ruling last week, Justice Jennifer Remy also quashed the purported appointment of Juno Samuel as chairman of ABEC in place of Watt.

Specifically, the court made the following declarations:

1. That Spencer’s recommendation to the governor general on 5 January 2010 that Watt be relieved of his position as chairman of ABEC was illegal, namely, contrary to sections 3 and 4 of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001, and is therefore null, void, and of no legal effect.

2. That Spencer’s decision on 5 January 2010 to recommend to the governor general that Watt be relieved of his position as chairman of ABEC was irrational and was accordingly unlawful.

3. That Spencer’s decision on 5 January 2010 to recommend to the governor general that Watt be relieved of his position as chairman of ABEC was procedurally unfair, namely, Watt was not given an opportunity to be heard with respect to the allegation that he no longer had the ‘full faith and confidence’ of ‘the people of this fair nation’, and was accordingly unlawful.

4. That any and all actions taken pursuant to Spencer’s recommendation given on 5 January 2010 that Watt be removed as chairman, including any actions taken by the Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack, are null, void, and of no legal effect whatsoever.

5. That the appointment of and/or continuation in office by Juno Samuel as chairman of ABEC is contrary to law, ultra vires the provisions of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001, and is null, void, and of no legal effect.

6. That Samuel holds the office of member of ABEC (and that of member only) pursuant to his appointment of 2010 and that he continues to hold the said office until such time as he (1) vacates the same in the manner prescribed by section 3(5) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001 or (2) is removed from office in the manner prescribed by section 4 of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

7. That all actions and decisions taken by Samuel as Chairman of ABEC whether purported to be taken under the authority of the representation of The People (Amendment) Act 2001, or the Representation of The People (Amendment) Act 2002 are null and void and of no legal effect, including but not limited to the signing off of the Register of Electors, and any matter involving the staffing and operations of ABEC.

8. That the decision of 16 July 2010 to suspend Watt as a member and chairman of ABEC with effect from 19 July 2010 was contrary to section 4(4) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

9. That Watt’s suspension as chairman of ABEC ceased upon the issuance of the recommendation of the Forte Tribunal on 14 October 2010 that Watt not be removed as chairman of ABEC, and that from 14 October 2010 Watt was fully vested with the lawful authority to exercise the functions of the office of chairman of ABEC, to the exclusion of all others, and that Watt’s reinstatement as chairman of ABEC continues until he (1) vacates the office of chairman pursuant to section 3(5) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001 or (2) is removed from office pursuant to section 4 of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

10. That the actions of any person other than Watt in exercising the functions of office of the chairman of ABEC after the cessation his suspension as Chairman of ABEC on 14 October 2010 are null and void and of no legal effect.

The court ruled, therefore, that Watt is entitled to and continues to be the chairman of ABEC.

Spencer and the attorney general were ordered to pay to Watt damages to be assessed, as well as costs to be determined on the basis of prescribed costs based on the amount of damages assessed.

Appearing as counsel for Spencer in the case was Sanjeev Datadin, who has himself recently become entangled in some controversy over his purported appointment as a special constable in relation to an ongoing fraud investigation, which appointment has since been ruled to be illegal.

The Antigua and Barbuda government has since poured scorn on the court’s decision and Juno Samuel, whose appointment as the chairman of ABEC Judge Remy has ruled is illegal and void, is reportedly continuing to act unilaterally.

He is said to have appointed an acting chief registration officer to carry out duties that were performed by the chief elections officer.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Attorney Gerry Watt and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer

Antigua — A high court judge in Antigua has ruled as illegal the purported removal of Sir Gerald Watt QC as chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) in 2010 by the governor general acting under the direction and recommendation of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

In a ruling last week, Justice Jennifer Remy also quashed the purported appointment of Juno Samuel as chairman of ABEC in place of Watt.

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Specifically, the court made the following declarations:

1. That Spencer’s recommendation to the governor general on 5 January 2010 that Watt be relieved of his position as chairman of ABEC was illegal, namely, contrary to sections 3 and 4 of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001, and is therefore null, void, and of no legal effect.

2. That Spencer’s decision on 5 January 2010 to recommend to the governor general that Watt be relieved of his position as chairman of ABEC was irrational and was accordingly unlawful.

3. That Spencer’s decision on 5 January 2010 to recommend to the governor general that Watt be relieved of his position as chairman of ABEC was procedurally unfair, namely, Watt was not given an opportunity to be heard with respect to the allegation that he no longer had the ‘full faith and confidence’ of ‘the people of this fair nation’, and was accordingly unlawful.

4. That any and all actions taken pursuant to Spencer’s recommendation given on 5 January 2010 that Watt be removed as chairman, including any actions taken by the Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack, are null, void, and of no legal effect whatsoever.

5. That the appointment of and/or continuation in office by Juno Samuel as chairman of ABEC is contrary to law, ultra vires the provisions of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001, and is null, void, and of no legal effect.

6. That Samuel holds the office of member of ABEC (and that of member only) pursuant to his appointment of 2010 and that he continues to hold the said office until such time as he (1) vacates the same in the manner prescribed by section 3(5) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001 or (2) is removed from office in the manner prescribed by section 4 of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

7. That all actions and decisions taken by Samuel as Chairman of ABEC whether purported to be taken under the authority of the representation of The People (Amendment) Act 2001, or the Representation of The People (Amendment) Act 2002 are null and void and of no legal effect, including but not limited to the signing off of the Register of Electors, and any matter involving the staffing and operations of ABEC.

8. That the decision of 16 July 2010 to suspend Watt as a member and chairman of ABEC with effect from 19 July 2010 was contrary to section 4(4) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

9. That Watt’s suspension as chairman of ABEC ceased upon the issuance of the recommendation of the Forte Tribunal on 14 October 2010 that Watt not be removed as chairman of ABEC, and that from 14 October 2010 Watt was fully vested with the lawful authority to exercise the functions of the office of chairman of ABEC, to the exclusion of all others, and that Watt’s reinstatement as chairman of ABEC continues until he (1) vacates the office of chairman pursuant to section 3(5) of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001 or (2) is removed from office pursuant to section 4 of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001.

10. That the actions of any person other than Watt in exercising the functions of office of the chairman of ABEC after the cessation his suspension as Chairman of ABEC on 14 October 2010 are null and void and of no legal effect.

The court ruled, therefore, that Watt is entitled to and continues to be the chairman of ABEC.

Spencer and the attorney general were ordered to pay to Watt damages to be assessed, as well as costs to be determined on the basis of prescribed costs based on the amount of damages assessed.

Appearing as counsel for Spencer in the case was Sanjeev Datadin, who has himself recently become entangled in some controversy over his purported appointment as a special constable in relation to an ongoing fraud investigation, which appointment has since been ruled to be illegal.

The Antigua and Barbuda government has since poured scorn on the court’s decision and Juno Samuel, whose appointment as the chairman of ABEC Judge Remy has ruled is illegal and void, is reportedly continuing to act unilaterally.

He is said to have appointed an acting chief registration officer to carry out duties that were performed by the chief elections officer.