Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 29th 2016 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 29, 2016
The United National Congress (UNC) will know
the fate of its election petitions challenging the Elec-
tions and Boundaries Commission s (EBC) decision
to extend last year s general elections by one hour
one month before the one-year anniversary of the
High Court judge, Mira Dean-Armorer, who is pre-
siding over the Opposition s party s petitions for five
marginal constituencies, yesterday promised its attor-
neys and those for the EBC and the People s National
Movement (PNM) that she would deliver her judgment
in August, less than two months after the trial of the
petitions is set to be completed.
Presenting submissions on behalf of the UNC at
the start of the trial in the Port-of-Spain High Court
yesterday, British Queen s Counsel Timothy Straker
repeatedly said the EBC acted illegally and beyond its
legislative remit when it decided to extend the Sep-
tember 7 poll by one hour in Trinidad only, due to
Straker claimed that election legislation did not
confer an explicit power on the EBC to extend the
polls, only to suspend or postpone it to the following
day in instances of riots and violence. He
said any such change would have to be done
Straker also claimed that by following the
directive, its returning officers and other staff
committed "corrupt offences" under the
Representation of the People Act by allowing
persons to vote outside of the 6 am to 6 pm
traditional voting hours.
"It may be that they had been duped to
perform these corrupt practices but never-
theless they were corrupt practices," Straker
said as he described the EBC s decision as
"shocking, ill-judged and ill-conceived."
He added that by admitting to allowing
votes to be cast past 6 pm in their witness
statements, the EBC staff technically admitted
guilt for the offences.
In addition to strict timelines for the polls,
Straker noted that Parliament had also been
"time-specific" about election-related
offences and regulations, including the sale
of alcohol on election day, conduct in and
around polling stations and the time period
alloted for voters to use poll booths.
He claimed that the EBC s decision would
have had a negative impact on citizens who
would have been confused as to the impact
of extension on election day regulations.
Straker also complained of the method
used by the EBC to communicate the exten-
sion, which was done via press release as
opposed to advance publication in newspapers
as required by the legislation.
Straker said his clients would bring wit-
nesses to show that voters in the contested
constituencies were unable to take advantage
of the extension as they only learned of it
after it had expired and others who were
preventing from casting their ballots during
the extended hours by EBC officials who had
not received communication of the decision.
Dealing briefly with the impact of the
decision on outcome of the election, Straker
claimed there could be no dispute that
breaches of the election rules "materially
and substantially affected the poll."
He added: "It is obviously the case that
an election can be voided wotton considering
how many voted or didn t. It had been con-
ducted corruptly whatever the circumstances
of the numbers."
Straker will continue his submissions before
Dean-Armorer this morning.
Ruling on polls petitions in August
ABOUT THE CASE
Following its 23 to 18 defeat in the election, the UNC
initially filed petitions for six marginal constituencies---
La Horquetta/Talparo, Toco/Sangre Grande, Tunapuna,
St Joseph, San Fernando West and Moruga/Tableland.
In March, however, the petition for La
Horquetta/Talparo was struck out by Dean-Armorer
due to an administrative error by the UNC in filing it.
Besides the petitions, Dean-Armorer has also been
assigned two cases in which three private citizens are
challenging the EBC's decision.
Social activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj has filed a
judicial review seeking the court's clarification on
whether the EBC had the constitutional power to make
the decision and Irwin Lyne and Melissa Sylvan are
claiming that the EBC breached the constitutional rights
of Tobagonians by not allowing them an extension.
Both cases have been deferred as they would be
directly affected by the outcome of Dean-Armorer's
decision on the petitions.
The UNC is also being represented by Opposition
Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, former attorney
general Anand Ramlogan, SC, Kent Samlal and Douglas
The PNM is being represented by Douglas Mendes,
SC, Kerwyn Garcia and Celeste Jules. Senior Counsel
Russel Martineau and Deborah Peake and attorney Ravi
Heffes-Doon are representing the EBC.
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