Court strikes blow to government plans to change boundaries

Justice Darshan Ramdhani indicated in his 160 page ruling that the respondents (government) provided insufficient and good enough reason to block the judicial review being requested by the opposition. The government had hoped to convince the judge that there was insufficient merit in the case to move forward to trial.

But it was also the contention of Justice Ramdhani that if Governor General Sir Edmund Lawrence was able to sign the Proclamation that would give effect to the changes, then the court would be deprived of its jurisdiction in the matter.

The opposition on the other hand, which requested the injunction, has already termed the decision a victory for democracy and justification for its actions. But this is not the first time. Similarly, back in 2009, on the eve on an election, the government also attempted to change the boundaries but the People’s Action Movement, under the leadership of Lindsay Grant, managed to thwart the Prime Minister’s actions with the court also granting an injunction on that occasion.

This therefore is a double whammy for the government and the opposition is also of the view that its case against the boundary changes does in fact have merit for the consideration of the High Court. The opposition had argued that there had been too much bias in the process that was used for the changes and that the preliminary data used, should not form the basis for such draconian changes that would basically eliminate some constituencies as they are currently known and structured. However the opposition ought to also be mindful that it was the judge’s view that they did not provide enough evidence to prove that the actions taken by the Constituency Boundary Commission were not proper. This could be critical to the arguments when the date for the Judicial Review arrives.

It is reported that the court’s order will remain until there is a judicial review of the matter. It means therefore, that the opposition parties (CCM, PAM, PLP) will now have the opportunity to have their substantive case against the changes heard and determined by the court. It is also widely believed that had the government succeeded in having the case thrown out they would have swiftly moved forward to give effect to the changes and then steps would have been taken to call the general elections with new boundaries that are considered by the opposition to be unfairly stacked against them and specifically targeting their key leaders.

In the proposed changes, the most significant alterations would have seen an elimination of Constituency Number Five as presently configured. The town of Sandy Point, represented by PAM’s leader, Shawn Richards, would have been split in half with one side being attached to the traditional St. Paul’s stronghold of the government. Similar changes were being proposed to affect the district (Constituency Number Seven) now represented in parliament by Dr. Timothy Harris, who now forms part of the opposition and who has been endorsed to lead a future government comprised of parties now in opposition.

The plan also proposes to make the government stronghold of St. Peters a separate constituency. These changes became necessary for the government after a major defection by two former senior government parliamentarians, including (Dr. Harris and) the former Deputy Prime Minister, (Sam Condor), to join the opposition members of PAM and CCM. This gave the opposition a majority of six seats, compared to the five controlled by the government.

The proposed changes were also under consideration because of the 11 month old Motion of No Confidence that was filed with the Clerk of the Parliament since 11th December, 2012; but is yet to be heard by the law-making body.

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