It is Grant’s opinion that, “The petition is very technical. For example, the case of Anthony Ribeiro and Dr. Kennedy Simmonds is authority in our Court of Appeal from 1979, which has apparently been consistently overlooked by current decisions of our courts. That case provides that where our rules are silent on election petition procedures, which they are, then the English practice should prevail”.
Grant said that, “This is important because when PAM filed the petition and went forward, we went forward based upon the decision of Ribeiro and Simmonds, but the court today did not definitively give an understanding of where that case fits in. They said there was a case handed down last week in Antigua, which she, (the judge), appeared to have followed as precedence”.
The PAM Leader stated, “We buttressed our pleadings this time around, based upon deficiencies the last time around, one of which would have been the use of the English Rules. But now today the court is saying to us, the English Rules don’t apply”.
Grant’s position was supported by his Deputy Political Leader, Parliamentarian, Mr. Eugene Hamilton.
Hamilton shared Mr. Grant’s assessment by stating that, “If the court had used the precedence from the 1979 case between Dr. Kennedy Simmons and Mr. Anthony Ribeiro, the English Rules would have applied and if they were applied everything would have been right with our pleadings”.
“But for some strange reason, the recent court decision in Antigua, was used to guide the ruling in the petition brought by PAM”, said Hamilton.
In that Antiguan case, the lower court ruled in favour of a similar election petition that was brought by the opposition Antigua Labour Party. It was charged that significant irregularities occurred in the Antiguan election and that four candidates from the ruling UPP party should be disallowed. The lower court agreed with the ALP and declared three of the four seats vacant.
However the governing UPP appealed the decision and last week, the OECS Court of Appeal, overturned the lower court, dismissing the challenge of the ALP and thereby certifying the election of the UPP candidates, who included the island’s Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin Spencer.
“The issue is the judge did not say what rules applied. More importantly, it appears that the judge strongly rebuked the fact that the specific election rules did not apply and that we do not have our own. Because our election laws say that the Chief Justice may make rules”, said the PAM leader.
“As the judge said, if we go into a similar situation tomorrow, we are going to find ourselves in the same position. It appears as though the request by the judge, in her post script statement, says that she is very much struck by the fact that people, who want to challenge election petitions, will always face insurmountable hurdles because of the long overdue rules”, said Mr. Grant, who himself is a lawyer.
Grant is of the view that there is need for the public and others to agitate for such rules, so that the same obstacles are not present in the future. So after an election is completed and there is to be a challenge, there are rules to guide you, about whether or not you wish to proceed, rather than getting no justice.
Deputy Leader Hamilton added his voice by indicating that the court in Antigua used rules from India or somewhere else, rather than the English Law.
Hamilton stated, “The judge in her post script agonized that she would have made a completely different decision had the decision not come down last week in Antigua. She would have made sure that the English Rules were applied here and the case would have been completely different”.
Thursday’s decision however is one that cannot be appealed. It is final.
The judge awarded no cost in the matter.