A resident of Tobago has called on the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to reconsider its recent report, which led to the creation of three new electoral districts in Tobago.
Lawyers representing June Mckenzie, of Bacolet, Tobago, made the call late last week as they responded to correspondence from the EBC’s Chief Election Officer Fern Narcis-Scope, who rejected her (McKenzie) concerns raised in a letter to the EBC on September 22.
In the original correspondence, McKenzie’s lawyers challenged the EBC’s report, which was submitted to the House of Representatives on September 10 and passed five days later before the President issued the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) (Tobago) 2021.
McKenzie’s lawyers suggested that the report was illegal as the EBC considered community fragmentation or unnecessary division of communities when creating the three new districts and requested further disclosure of its (EBC) rationale.
In the EBC’s response on September 29, also obtained by Guardian Media, Narcis-Scope claimed that the matter is closed as the order by the President cannot be challenged in court.
Narcis-Scope denied any wrongdoing in relation to the commission’s report and said it was consistent with the statutorily prescribed procedure.
“It cannot be said that reasonable persons applying the appropriate principles could not have set the electoral boundaries as the Commission has or that the Commission took into account irrelevant considerations or ignored relevant ones,” Narcis-Scope said.
“It (EBC) did not identify “threats to the integrity of communities” and did not embark on any determination of “which communities could not be fractured,” she added.
Responding to Narcis-Scope’s response last week, Mckenzie’s lawyer Rhea Khan challenged her denial over the considerations while referring to segment of the EBC’s report where it gave justification for selecting the Goodwood/Belle Garden West district to be split instead of the Providence/Mason Hall district, which had less registered voters.
“Indeed, if the plain and ordinary meaning of the language of the EBC report is to be believed then the EBC clearly did consider or purported to consider the issue of community fragmentation,” Khan said.
Khan requested further disclosure of the “field reconnaissance surveys,” which were allegedly used in preparing the report.
Khan gave the EBC a week to reconsider its position and threatened to file legal proceedings if the deadline was not met.
The move to increase the electoral districts in Tobago was the result of a deadlock in the THA elections in January, in which the People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) each secured six districts.
The three new districts are Lambeau/Lowlands, Darryl Spring/Whim and Mt St George/Goodwood. All but two of the original 12 districts were slightly modified to make the change.