Coalition writes Chief Justice for early hearing of election petitions

APNU/AFC moments after filing their election petition on August 31, 2020. L-R: Roysdale Forde, Khemraj Ramjattan, Joseph Harmon, David Granger

Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon today announced that lawyers have written to Chief Justice Roxane George requesting directions for an early hearing of the two election petitions filed by the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC).

“The lawyers I understand have written to the Chief Justice asking for directions with respect to an early hearing,” Harmon informed a press conference.

The APNU/AFC has filed two election petitions both challenging the results of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections and the National Recount that followed. However, notably absent from the petitions are the APNU/AFC Statements of Poll (SoPs).

The petitioners, in the first petition filed on August 31, 2020 are Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick, both of Albouystown, Georgetown.

The petitioners in the second election petition are Monica Thomas of Lot 58 Norton Street, Lodge, Georgetown, and Bernnan Joette Natasha Nurse of Lot N16-1079 Critchlow Street, Tucville, Georgetown.

They say that during the period January to August 2020, they were employed at the Office of the Elections Agent as Assistants to Harmon, who was appointed as Election Agent for the APNU/AFC.

In the first petition, the Coalition attached the form that embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo used to declare the results for Region Four, which listed the total number of valid votes for all lists as 217,425 for which APNU/AFC received 136,057 votes and the PPP/C 77,231 votes.

In actuality, the results of the National Recount found that there was a total of 202,077 ballots cast in Region Four, with 116,941 for APNU/AFC and 80,920 for PPP/C. As it relates to the overall elections, the gazetted results show that 460,352 valid votes were cast, with 233,336 for the PPP/C and 217,920 for APNU/AFC.

The PPP/C has insisted that the High Court has to first hear the election petition filed by the party sometime after it lost the 2015 General and Regional Elections. It says that it is only fair that its petitions be heard before the ones filed by the Coalition.

In its preliminary report following the March 2020 General and Regional Elections, the Commonwealth observer team expressed concern at the delays of the High Court in dealing with the 2015 elections petition filed by PPP/C member Ganga Persaud.

Head of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, the late Former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur had said, “We were informed for example that an elections petition filed by the PPP /C following the 2015 elections is still pending before the High Court.”

The law permits an election petition case to be filed in the High Court within 28 days after the elections results are published in the Official Gazette.