Both sides in the election petitions case have informed the High Court that Dec. 12 and 13 are convenient days for the hearing of the application to inspect election documents as part of the case.
The motion came up for hearing last week Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 24 and 25, but a proposed consent order that lawyers for the government presented to the court was rejected by the opposition’s team after almost two days of hearing before Justice Esco Henry.
After the consent order was rejected, the government’s legal team asked for an adjournment and the court said that the hearing would take place in December 2017 or January 2018 — whichever is more convenient for both sides.
A source close to the matter told iWitness News on Wednesday that both sides had informed the High Court that Dec. 12 and 13 are convenient dates, but they were awaiting a response.
“It’s not official yet but the agreed dates are 12th to 13th December. A notice of hearing should be served any day now by the High Court,” another source said.
With the adjournment of the hearing last week, some persons expressed concern that the two petitions challenging the results of the Dec. 9, 2015 general elections are yet to be resolved almost two years after the vote.
Asked last week Wednesday, after her side rejected the proposed consent order, what she would say to members of the public who are impatient with the process, lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste said, “I agree, but justice cannot have a shortcut.”
If the opposition’s legal team had accepted the proposed consent order, the respondents would have agreed to allow them to inspect four of the 15 ballot boxes used in Central Leeward, one of the seats being contested.
The petitioners, however, said that they would accept the consent order on condition that their right to apply for permission to inspect the other ballot boxes is not infringed.
However, the government side said that had the petitioners accepted the consent order, the government’s legal team would have objected to any inspection of the other 11 ballot boxes in the future.
“We cannot agree to a consent order that restricts us just so we can say the matter is proceeding,” Bacchus-Baptiste told iWitness News.
“We have to look in the interest of our clients,” she said, adding that her side wants to inspect every ballot box used in Central Leeward.
“Our case is that every single ballot was badly designed and we have shown how it should be designed, what was the proper one and what we saw there.”
And, speaking on the matter of the petitions taking so long to be resolved, head of the petitioner’s legal team, Queen’s Counsel Stanley John, noted that the government had opposed an application to inspect the ballot boxes in December 2015.
John said that the Supervisor of Elections, the returning officer and the Attorney General opposed that application and a High Court judgment was issued that inspection would be improper because the secrecy of the ballot would be breached.
“You’d recall that this application was brought since in March 2016. From thence, until now, the respondents had been opposing the application, that it ought not to have been brought, that it would be improper for the court to make such an order.”
John said that when the application came on in June, their argument was that nothing new has happened, and therefore, the application is an abuse of the process of the court and that the court should dismiss it.
He said that the petitioners responded in writing.
“And as a result of that, they are now offering, making a proposal for four ballot boxes to be inspected.”
Keith Scotland, another member of the opposition’s legal team, noted that Dec. 9 will mark the two year anniversary of the 2015 elections.
“But I always remember this phrase: tarry slowly,” Scotland told iWitness News after last week’s developments.
“Tarry slowly so that we get it right. And what is happening now is the process of getting it right. December is very close by and nothing will be lost if we take our time, settle down to get it right because we must get it right. It is not a simple land case where one says “he lie, she lie” case. It is a case of serious public importance. So it is before the judge. I don’t want to trespass in an area that is sub judice. But that is what I want to say and the matter is proceeding, and I will be here in December,” Scotland had said.
The main opposition New Democratic Party has filed the petitions challenging the results in Central Leeward and North Windward, two of eight seats that electoral officials say the Unity Labour Party won for a fourth consecutive term in office.