Justice Cicely Chase yesterday threw out the challenge to the suit brought to halt Barbados’ General Elections, saying she did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter and that it ought to have been brought before an election court, adding the action was incorrectly filed.
The judge’s ruling cleared the way for Barbadians to vote in today’s general election, the first since the country became a republic last November.
The Barbados Labour Party led by incumbent Prime Minister Mia Mottley controls 29 of the legislature’s 30 seats. Mottley said today’s vote would help promote unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday, Justice Chase heard arguments from attorney Lalu Hanuman, who brought the challenge on behalf of St Thomas constituency hopeful Philip Nathanial Catlyn, of the Barbados Sovereignty Party (BSP), as well as Queen’s Counsel Alrick Scott, who represented President Dame Sandra Mason and Queen’s Counsel Roger Forde, who appeared for the Attorney General.
Catlyn was seeking a restraining order against the holding of today’s General Elections until “the disenfranchisement of thousands of electors who are in quarantine due to the zoonotic COVID-19 viral pandemic is resolved beforehand.”
The suit challenged Dame Mason’s dissolution of Parliament on December 27 last year, and the issuing of Election Writs, saying the act was unauthorised, contrary to law and illegal; arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational, irregular and an improper exercise of discretion; that it was capricious, erroneous, an excess of jurisdiction, ultra vires and an abuse of power and that it was in conflict with Section 6 of the Representation of the People Act.
Speaking at a political meeting on Monday night, Mottley said she believed the inspiration behind the legal action was the lack of readiness in the opposition.
“Why? Why? WHY? Because they know they are losing and they’re now trying everything to stop you from returning the Barbados Labour Party to government and allowing us to continue the mission of transformation,” Mottley told supporters.
Mottley said she was not worried because “The case law, I’m no Attorney General (AG) now, but I used to be one and my memory ain’t short and Dale [Marshall] knows and I know that there is case law in the Commonwealth Caribbean that makes it absolutely clear that the High Court has no jurisdiction to suspend or to stop any election once the writ is issued, and that the only court that can have anything to do at all with an election is a special election court, and the only jurisdiction it has is to determine what happened in the election, so the election would have to happen before the election court can pass and render a judgement.”