High Court Judge pushes ahead with case filed to set aside RO’s declaration
…overrides objections despite stay in joined recount case
Despite the protestations of lawyers for People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo, High Court Judge Franklyn Holder on Monday decided to press ahead with his ruling on the preliminary case in Bharrat Jagdeo vs Clairmont Mingo, which seeks to establish the court’s jurisdiction to set aside the Returning Officer’s controversial second declaration.
The matter began with Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, who represents Jagdeo, urging the court to delay ruling on the matter. He cited the Full Court’s ruling earlier in the day, in which it stayed another matter brought by APNU candidate Ulita Moore, until a ruling could be made on an appeal into Holder’s decisions on Friday.
However, both Justice Holder and Neil Boston, the lawyer for Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, opposed this position. On his part, Boston argued that they are separate cases that do not overlap, despite the fact that they were joined.
Meanwhile, Justice Holder admitted that while certain facts in the case do overlap, Mendes and his team are ultimately seeking different orders. He also cited the urgency of concluding the matter since the nation is anxious.
In fact, it has been four weeks since elections were held, yet a winner has not been declared. In addition, Holder pointed out the need to establish his jurisdiction to hear the case, as early as possible.
As such, he set today at 14:30h to rule on the preliminary case. Afterwards, Boston reiterated that Moore and Jagdeo’s cases are mutually exclusive.
However, attorney for Jagdeo, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall explained in an interview with this publication that Justice Holder did not think that the stay of execution granted in the Ulita Moore matter applied in the Holladar/Jagdeo matter, although he had ordered the two matters to be heard together.
“We reasoned that if they are to be heard together, then the stay of one will result in the stay of another. Together means exactly that, they must be heard together. The Judge did not hold that view,” Nandlall stated.
While Jagdeo and the now deceased Reaz Holladar were the applicants, Mingo was the first-named respondent; Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield was the second and GECOM, the third.
Jagdeo is seeking to have Mingo’s March 13 discredited declaration set aside on the grounds that the RO’s actions in tabulating the votes breached the Representation of the People Act. Jagdeo is also seeking an order to direct Mingo to recognise Charles Ramson as the PPP’s counting agent for Region Four. He is also seeking an order directing GECOM to do the recount.
Mingo’s second declaration on March 13 had come after a standoff with party agents who complained that the RO was not complying with previous court orders. There had been complaints that the second tabulation lacked transparency.
In addition, the numbers differed from the previous, invalidated declaration, raising more suspicions. In Mingo’s second declaration, he claimed that A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) secured 136,057 votes to the PPP’s 77,231 in Region Four. But the same Mingo in his first (also discredited) declaration had claimed that APNU/AFC won 136,335 votes to the PPP’s 77,258. In addition, both of these declarations fail to match the Statements of Poll (SoPs) in the possessions of the other parties. However, Justice Holder had defeated efforts by the PPP to have GECOM produce the SoPs in its possession, to verify once and for all where Mingo was getting his numbers from.