Attorneys representing Commonwealth citizens resident in Barbados have called on the Chief Electoral Officer, Angela Taylor, to have their clients registered ahead of the May 24 general elections in keeping with a recent ruling by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
In their May 16th letter to Taylor, the attorneys asserted that they are in possession of the CCJ ruling that endorsed the ruling of the Barbados Chief Justice “that your longstanding policy was ultra vires and unlawful but also pronounced that you have an obligation, once an applicant satisfies the criteria for registration under section 7 and the formal requirements under the Act and Regulations, to register that applicant.”
The CCJ ruled on Sunday that a St. Lucian-born academic should be registered as an elector to cast a ballot in the May 24 general elections and warned the Chief Elections Officer that failure to carry out the order by midday on Monday, May 14, could land her in jail for contempt of court or be fined.
In an unprecedented hearing, the CCJ, which is the Barbados final court, said that Eddy Ventose, a professor of law at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), had satisfied “the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector”.
Barbadians go to the polls on May 24 to elect a new government with the contest expected to be between the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) headed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) headed by Mia Mottley, who is seeking to become the first woman head of government in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
Election day workers, including police, will cast their ballots on May 17.
The CCJ said that the matter before it has implications not only for the appellant but also for Commonwealth citizens, living in Barbados, who want to be registered to vote in the general elections.
“The long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors… is unlawful and ultra vires,’ Sir Dennis said.
In their letter, the lawyers urged the Chief Electoral Officer to read paragraphs 35 and 36 of the judgment, with the latter paragraph stating “both the CEO and the Court of Appeal seemingly subscribe to the view, that the CEO or other registering officer has an implied discretion to determine a claim for registration even when the requirements under the Act have been met; we do not agree. The legal framework is very specific as to the procedure to be followed if the relevant officers are satisfied or dissatisfied with a claim.
“There is no discretion to add extra criteria to statutory criteria as stated by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in George Rick James v Ismay Spencer and Lorna Simon …”
The lawyers said that in the circumstances, “we maintain that you have no option but to issue notices of
refusal to those applicants who do not satisfy the requirements of the Act and Regulations and in all other instances where they have satisfied the conditions, to register them forthwith.”
Efforts to get a reaction from Taylor have so far proven futile.
The Electoral List for the election will be published on Friday.