Voting suit now a class action
ATTORNEY WILFRED ABRAHAMS has until tomorrow to file paperwork to the Supreme Court, treating the civil suit brought by three non-nationals for the right to vote in Barbados’ next general election as a class action suit.
This was confirmed by co-counsel Bryan Weekes, who was speaking to the media at the Supreme Court after a preliminary hearing before Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson in chambers in the No. 1 Supreme Court yesterday.
“The court made orders joining Mr [Gregory] Nicholls’ clients to ours, and also made an order joining the Electoral and Boundaries Commission as a defendant . . . This means the case is not limited to the named parties, but applies to everybody in a class which the decision applies,” he explained.
Nicholls originally represented Sharon Juliet Edgecombe-Miller, who holds British citizenship as a result of being born in Montserrat and is a Grenadian by descent; and Jamaican attorney Michelle Melissa Russell, while Weekes and Abrahams stood for Grenadian Shireene Ann Mathlin-Tulloch.
“The court gave us certain directions to file affidavits and legal arguments, and we’re returning to the court on December 14.
“The court will decide whether the matter is ready . . . as we prepare final arguments with a hope to resolve the issues, or if other procedural matters need to be taken care of at that time.
“But the court is [fully] seized to the issues, meaning it now knows the basic position of both sets of parties, and hopefully we will have a resolution to the matter sooner rather than later,” Weekes said.
“The court has given the respondents the opportunity to put their affidavit evidence, or their side of the story, in.
“Once both sides file their legal arguments, the court will decide whether it has enough information to proceed to attempt to make a decision in the matter or not. If it does, then great; if not, then the court will give us further directions if necessary.
“The point is, the court is treating the matter with the urgency it deserves, and hopefully by the end of the year we will have a decision determining these people’s right to vote in the upcoming election, and all other people who fall into that category, whether or not they will be allowed to participate in the next general election,” he said.
The three are contending that as Commonwealth citizens, having legally resided in Barbados for more than three years in each case, they are entitled to be registered as electors pursuant to Section 7 of the Representation of the People Act.
Russell said the right to vote already existed by virtue of the act, which they were trying to have enforced.
“What the Chief Electoral Officer has done is that he has blocked us from being registered as voters even though the law allows us to be registered. They have implemented a policy that stops us from doing just that,” she said.
“We’ve never been allowed to register. Section 7:1 sets out the people who qualify to be registered as electors – Commonwealth citizens who have resided here for three years or more, Barbadian citizens and persons over the age of 18.
“This means we qualify to go and register as electors, but when we try they say no. Even after reminding them of what the act says, they said they won’t register us,” Russell added. (RA)