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PNM on Chaguanas swearing-in: Government interference

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Opposition PNM is objecting to yesterday’s failed proceedings to elect a Chaguanas mayor and also with yesterday’s Moruga local government elections result recount, over which the PNM will be taking legal action. PNM’s Colm Imbert, who spoke about both yesterday, accused Government of ministerial and political interference in the Chaguanas issue.



He lodged the accusation after being briefed on that situation by PNM councillors and other party officials. Earlier in the day, Imbert had represented the PNM at the Moruga local government recount conducted by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), in which the UNC again ended up the winner. Imbert said, however, that the PNM would now seek either judicial review or file an election petition on the result. 


On the Chaguanas issue, Imbert said: “We strongly object to what was clear ministerial and political interference in the meeting to elect the mayor of Chaguanas. “The Minister of Local Government, who had no locus standi, attended the meeting, along with a legal officer from the Ministry of Local Government and the outgoing Chaguanas mayor, none of whom had any locus standi either at the meeting. “All intervened at various times to give various orders and instructions with respect to the conduct of the meeting.


“But none of this is permissible under the law. The only people who can participate in electing a mayor are the members of the council, which in this case were the eight elected councillors and four aldermen.” Imbert said he learned confusion reigned at the meeting.


“When a motion was put to the floor by a member of the council that the election of a mayor be held by a show of hands rather than by secret ballot, the minister and the outgoing mayor intervened again, claiming that the council had no authority to ask for that motion and also the council was not properly constituted,” he added.


Imbert said the standing orders for proceedings provided for the voting by secret ballot and the only way to change that was to put a motion to the floor asking to suspend the standing orders to allow for a show of hands on the issue. Due to the confusion, he said the meeting was suspended until further notice. He added: “So there was clear political interference by people who had no locus standi. They were not even supposed to have been at the table at the head of the room.


“Also, Section 66 (2) of the Municipal Corporations Act states clearly that a motion to suspend the standing orders can be made without notice at any meeting of the council and this was a meeting of the council. “We in the PNM don’t know when this will resume but when it does we will continue with our nomination of Ronald Heera as mayor and invite everyone to vote for him.” 


On the Moruga outcome, Imbert said the first result after local government polls had showed PNM’s Kenwyn Williams had won by 40 votes. He claimed an EBC meeting instead quashed the first recount and a second recount was ordered. He said in that one, 150 ballots were rejected as spoilt, 100 ballots for UNC and 50 for PNM.


He claimed in the second recount, “instructions were given” to the returning officer to revisit the decision to reject those 150 ballots and 148 of them were accepted and the seat then changed hands to the UNC’s Phillip Gonzalves. In the final check of results yesterday, which the PNM had requested, Imbert said that exercise limited the questioned ballots and there were only seven, so that did not change the last result, a UNC win.


Imbert said: “We in PNM are firmly of the view the EBC had no lawful authority to quash the first recount and order a second. We can find nothing in the law that allows that and therefore our legal team is now examining our next move, whether it should be seeking judicial review or an election petition. “We feel the results of the first recount must stand and the results of the second, which was illegal, must be thrown out. 


“A judicial review will ask the court to overturn the EBC’s decision to order a second recount as that instruction was illegal. We will decide which course of action to use in the next week.”


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