The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is looking forward to Thursday’s (today) sitting of the High Court to hear what “correction” Justice Brian Cottle would make to his April 4 judgment in the election petitions matter.
A source close to the proceedings has told iWitness News that a recording of the March 4 sitting of the High Court has proven that the NDP’s legal team did object to the presentation of full arguments in the election petitions matter on March 4, contrary to what Cottle said in his judgment one month later.
The court had convened on March 4 to hear an application by the government that the opposition petitions were improperly filed and should be thrown out.
In the April 4 ruling, Cottle agreed with the opposition that he had no jurisdiction to throw out the petitions at that stage.
He, however, said that having heard the full arguments, the government’s case is bound to succeed, if the application is made at the commencement of the hearing of the petitions themselves.
The government on April 14 re-filed a motion asking the court to throw out the petitions, in which the NDP is asking the court to declare it the winner of the Central Leeward and North Windward constituencies or order fresh elections in those districts.
The petitions stem from the December 2015 general elections, which electoral officials say the ruling Unity Labour Party won, by taking 8 of the 15 parliamentary seats, while the remaining seven went to the NDP, a repeat of the 2010 election results.
The court is expected to meet on that new motion today, in an open court sitting.
In his April 4 ruling, Cottle also said that at the commencement of the March 4 hearing, counsel for the NDP made a preliminary submission that there is no legal basis upon which the government could engage the court’s jurisdiction by means of an interlocutory application to strike out the petition at that stage of the proceeding.
The judge, however, said that it was agreed that since as all parties and counsel, including counsel from abroad, were present, the court would reserve a ruling on the preliminary submission and hear all of the arguments on the application to strike out.
The NDP had said that this was not the case, adding that its lawyers had objected to the hearing of full arguments.
The party’s legal team was given a copy of the recording, which did indicate that it did not agree to the hearing of the full application, a well-placed source told iWitness News on condition of anonymity.
“One can actually hear the judge say that he knows that we did not concede,” the source said.
The source further told iWitness News that at the last hearing, in chambers, Cottle indicated that “if the transcript reveal something different from that was contained in paragraph 7 that he would correct it.
“I cannot say definitively what will happen. The recording would not change his views on the other side’s application. In my mind, it just means that we spoke the truth and he made an error,” the source said.
Another source close to the NDP’s legal team told iWitness News separately that during today’s sitting, the judge is likely to give directions for the hearing of the petition, as well as indicate if he would be correcting his judgement in light of the revelations of the recording.
“The outcome is likely to raise issues amongst the public of recusal once again,” the source said.
Leader of the Opposition and President of the NDP Arnhim Eustace had interpreted elements of Cottle’s judgement as an indication that he would recuse himself from the case.
Speaking to iWitness News on Tuesday, Richard Williams, a lawyer for the government in the petitions matter, noted Cottle’s comments regarding the likelihood of the government’s arguments succeeding should they be re-filed at the beginning of the hearing of the petitions.
“So we are just re-fling the same thing, but just in a different format,” Williams told witness News.
He said that he thinks the government has a good case.
Williams said that although the motion is set to be heard today, the parties involved are in discussions to come to an agreement to have all matters related to the case heard on a subsequent date.