Judge rules court challenge by Team Unity/PAM supporters an abuse of the process
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, May 29th 2017 – High Court Judge Marlene Carter has ruled that an attempt by Team Unity/PAM supporters Mr. Rupert Earle and Mr. William Liburd to remove two Nigerian students and all Commonwealth citizens from the Register of Voters “an abuse of process of the court.”
Earle and Liburd by claim form filed on 13th January 2014, petitioned the High Court seeking a declaration that two Nigerian students – Oluwabunmi Jesufemi Ayorinde and Osanoto Akolade Samuel who were studying medicine in St. Kitts are not qualified voters; that a person entering the Federation as a student under the Immigration Act is not a person qualified to be registered as a voter; is not a resident under the Immigration Act and that a Commonwealth citizen entering St. Kitts and Nevis are not ordinarily resident in St. Kitts and Nevis so as to be registered as a voter under the National Elections Act.
The two Team Unity/PAM supporters, who were represented by PAM/Team Unity candidate, Mr. Jonel Powell, also sought a declaration that a person entering St. Kitts and Nevis under a specific section in the Second Schedule of the Immigration Act is disqualified from being registered as a voter for the purpose of electing representatives.
Earle and William Liburd also sought a declaration that persons entering St. Kitts and Nevis as students under the Immigration Act, in the Register of Voters is contrary to law and thus null and void and of no effect and sought an Order of Mandamus to remove the two Nigerian students and all other persons entered on the Voters Register.
In her judgement handed down on May 24th 2017, Justice Carter noted that “the National Elections Act has been the subject of much discussion and discourse, much of which has led to the Court having to make determinations on various aspects of that most important piece of legislation.”
After outlining the arguments presented by all the parties in the matter, she noted that Rupert Earle and William Liburd through Mr. Powell, have pointed to no instance in which the registration process has been curtailed or interrupted by the court in a manner that they now seek to have the court do now.
“The effect of a declaration being granted would be to effectively usurp the decision of the Registration Officer and to circumvent the procedure as laid down by the provisions of the National Assembly Elections Act and the Election Registration Regulations.
If the Court is to intervene in an action before the Registration Officer/Supervisor of Elections is afforded an opportunity to make a determination, this would seriously undermine the entire election scheme and process. The acts and rights that the Act and Regulations seek to regulate are sacrosanct in a democratic society. This principle has been stated again and again by these courts,” said Justice Carter.
Justice Carter noted too that the respondents, Rupert Earle and William Liburd made clear in their submissions that the matter is neither a judicial review nor a constitutional relief claim.
“The respondents seek by way of declaration to circumvent the clear provisions of the Act. Given the very nature of the matters with which this Act is concerned and the nature of the right that it seeks to protect, this Court is unable to agree with the submissions of the respondents that it can intervene in a manner that is sought on the claim,”
The Judge determined that the Court does not have the jurisdiction to intervene in the registration process in the manner sought by Earl and Liburd.
Justice Carter referred to the ruling of Justice Ian Mitchell in the case Mark Brantley vs Joseph Parry in which Mitchell emphasized the importance of the notice provision with regard to objections of persons’ names on the Register of Voters and its vital function in the projection of the right to vote.
“This Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the claim as filed” by PAM/Team Unity supporters Rupert Earle and William Liburd.
“The claim form is struck as being an abuse of process of the Court. This Court makes no order as to costs,” Justice Carter ruled.
Rupert Earle and William Liburd were represented by Mr. Jonel Powell and Ms. Suzy Ann St. Brice; Oluwabunmi Jesufemi Ayorinde and Osanoto Akolade Samuel were represented by Mr. Sylvester Anthony and Ms. Angelina Sookhoo. Ms. Alethea Gumbs of the Attorney General’s Chambers represented the Supervisor of Elections and the Attorney General of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Photo 1 – Justice Marlene Carter
Photo 2 – Mr. Sylvester Anthony
Photo 3 – Mr. Jonel Powell