Caribbean News

Opposition Leader hoping for early court ruling on election petitions

Opposition Leader Lennox Linton Friday said he is hoping for an early ruling from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on the election petitions filed by the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) challenging the results of the December 6 general elections last year.

Linton, speaking at a news conference, said a report, compiled by the UWP on the elections that had been won by the ruling Dominica Labour Party (DLP), had indicated quite “categorically it was not free, it was not fair and free from fair”.

According to the petitions, the party is contesting the results in the Roseau South, Roseau Valley, Roseau Central, Mahaut, St Joseph, Kalinago Territory, Morne Juane, La Plaine, Castle Bruce and the Wesley constituencies.

“We are confident that the Court will agree that the non-compliance, irregularities and illegalities in the general election were substantial and significant and affected the results in at least these 10 constituencies”.

He said the party is also hoping that all the votes affected by these alleged illegal activities “do not count” and that the general election” was not conducted in accordance with the constitution and the applicable laws and is therefore vitiated in at least these 10 constituencies”.

He said that the party is also hoping that the relevant authorities be ordered “to conduct fresh elections in at least these 10 constituencies in strict conformity with the constitution and the provisions of the House of Assembly Act and the Registration of Electors Act”.

Linton insisted that the election was not fairly conduced “but through the might of the ruling party corrupt direction and control.

“On the weight of the evidence. It must of necessity follow that the cumulative effect of the multiplicity corrupt practices, electoral irregularities and fraudulent acts…have impugned the results of the 2019 elections and therefore render them invalid, null and void in at least 10 constituencies.

“We hope the court deals with this matter justly and speedily since as leaders of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court have accepted through the years it is important for the people to know as soon as possible after an election who their validly elected representatives are,” he told reporters.

Linton insisted that the polls were not free in an environment in which members of the Barbados-based Regional Security System (RSS) in their “military style intimidatory tactics…and threats of deadly force from local police were menacingly paraded in full support” of the Roosevelt Skerrit led DLP government.

He claimed that ‘thousands” of UWP supporters “did not vote” in the election, in which the DLP increased its majority in the Parliament, moving from 15 to 18 seats while the opposition, including Linton, won in three constituencies.

Regional and international observer teams, including those from the Organisation of American States (OAS) said that the results of the elections had reflected the will of the population, but Linton told reporters that the UWP supporters had stayed away “out of fear that going to the polls would have placed them in harm’s way”.

He said that the party is reiterating its early recommendations for there to be voter identification cards with pictures, as well as an accurate list of voters, which “can be achieved through a complete re-registration of voters…subjected to the existing residency criteria for voter registration”.

“We recommend the enforcement of the rule of law, provisions against bribery, treating, impersonation,” he said, adding that the party wanted “lawful facilitation of voters living overseas to vote in general elections in Dominica in a way that effective discontinues the corrupt illegal practice of a political party paying millions of dollars from undisclosed sources to transport thousands of voters from various overseas locations”.

The party is also recommending access to state media and campaign finance reform.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Skerrit said that it would cost an estimated EC$2.5 million (one EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) in legal fees to defend the 10 election petitions and that while it is the democratic right of the failed candidates to bring the court action, the funds would have been better utilised in the “dynamic” development of the island.

Skerrit said that “in one of the petitions, a guy is saying that he wanted to be an independent candidate but when he went to get nominated the place was closed already”.

“That’s one of the grounds for challenging a constituency. It is really laughable, but that is going to cost the Treasury $2.5 million.

“We have to pay for our students studying at universities some EC$18 million (and) in the next few weeks. I must find EC$18 million to send to schools in America and The University of the West Indies to pay for our students studying, and if I have a legal obligation in the court that I must pay this and I must pay that, I have to focus on this,” he added.

No date has yet been set for the start of hearing the petitions.

CMC

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