News


Former Minister of Finance Karen Nunez-Tesheira, right, speaks to the media after filing her nomination for the leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) at the PNM Central Office in Enterprise, Chaguanas, on October 10.  File photo/Ayanna Kinsale
Former Minister of Finance Karen Nunez-Tesheira, right, speaks to the media after filing her nomination for the leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) at the PNM Central Office in Enterprise, Chaguanas, on October 10. File photo/Ayanna Kinsale

THE PEOPLE’s National Movement (PNM) internal elections have reached the High Court, with two candidates –one of whom is contesting the leadership position – asking for the poll to be postponed for 21 days if the court grants orders declaring several decisions unconstitutional.

The “breach of contract” claim was filed for former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira, Dr Kenneth Butcher and Bishop Victor Phillip.

Nunez-Tesheira and Phillip are contesting the posts of political leader and chairman on the Team Karen slate. Butcher is a member of the PNM and a former MP.

Foster Cummings is named as the defendant in his capacity as general secretary and a representative of all members of the PNM, except the three.

The three have complained about ten issues which are listed as breaches, the main one being the decision to change the election day to election days. This, they contend, is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Peter Taylor and Egon Embrack.

The PNM internal election is scheduled for December 4. However, November 26 and 27 are also voting days, which, the lawsuit, said was decided on by the party’s central executive and ratified by the general council on August 10.

However, the claim says this decision was equivalent to an amendment of the PNM’s Constitution, which the party’s central executive does not have the power to make.

“The central executive is therefore subservient to the general council and cannot arrogate unto itself powers which the general council itself does not possess.”

“The decision to change the election from the time-honoured ‘election day’ to span a nine-day period is a fraught exercise more so since no justifiable reasons have been proffered to the membership for such a change which is without precedent anywhere in the Commonwealth or in jurisdictions throughout the world that observe and adhere to democratic conventions and practices and to the observance of the rule of law,” the lawsuit contends.

It further maintains it is an irrational decision.

Also challenged in the lawsuit are the party’s alleged failure to settle and provide final membership lists to candidates; name the locations of polling stations; confirm whether polling cards have been mailed out; and distribute election guidelines to all candidates.

The claim also takes issue with a decision to appoint an elections supervisory committee which allegedly lacks genuine independence.

“The claimants challenge the genuineness of the independence of the Elections Supervisory Committee…” the lawsuit said pointed to several issues to which the claimants sought answers from the committee’s chairman, Anthony Roberts, but received no direct response.

One was the decision to hold the election over the nine-day period.

“The ESC chairman’s reply sidestepped and never answered the question posed by the claimant’s attorney as to the justification for changing the Elections from one day to nine days.”

Seven declarations are being sought – which include one to allow all candidates, or their authoritised representatives, to oversee the casting of ballots at all polling stations – as well as three orders to allow ballots to be counted immediately after the close of voting, postponing the election for 21 days to give effect to the court’s orders and declarations.

Another of the orders seeks to allow every candidate to follow ballot boxes to the venue where votes will be counted.