The Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) will tomorrow announce if St Lucian professor Eddy Ventose can register and vote here as a Commonwealth citizen.
EBC attorney Bryan Barrow told Barbados TODAY this evening the commission will tomorrow deliver a comprehensive statement on the issue following a meeting tonight to discuss yesterday’s Appeal Court ruling, which gave the state entity 24 hours to determine whether or not it would put Ventose on the electoral list.
Ventose was part of a lawsuit challenging the EBC’s policy of refusing to register Commonwealth citizens to vote here. The other parties to the suit were Grenadian Shireen Ann Mathlin-Tulloch, Jamaican Michelle Russell and Montserratian Sharon Edgcome-Miller.
Last month, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson ruled that all Commonwealth citizens who have lived here for three or more years and were not disqualified under the Representation of the People Act were eligible to vote in this country.
After reserving judgment last month on an appeal by the state against the Chief Justice’s ruling, the Court of Appeal yesterday issued a ruling, which the attorney for the EBC said had quashed all of Sir Marston’s orders.
“All the orders the Chief Justice made were quashed in the first instance . . . all the things he ordered us to do were quashed and we have 24 hours to determine what we are going to do with Mr Ventose with regards to putting him on the electoral list or not. We don’t know why he was singled out of all the claimants, but he was,” Barrow said.
“They [the court] also said our long-standing policy should be abandoned. But I don’t think that assists us in any way cause we never used the policy as a criterion to determine eligibility for persons to get onto the list. We used that criterion to verify or authenticate that persons were actually living in Barbados lawfully for three years, which is a point that seems to have eluded everybody involved in the case, including the Court of Appeal,” the attorney said.
The commission had said it was its policy not to register anyone as an elector in Barbados, unless the person was a citizen, a resident or an immigrant.
Gregory Nicholls, one of the lawyers who represented the four Commonwealth citizens, has interpreted the Supreme Court’s ruling differently.
Nicholls told Barbados TODAY the court had only delivered a summary of its judgment due to its dislocation brought on by environmental problems at the Whitepark Road, St Michael building, but “from that summary, I gathered that the court has struck down the policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which requires Commonwealth citizens to be either resident in Barbados or permanent residents or as immigrants before they can vote”.
This, he said, was the primary reason the legal team went to court.
“So therefore we are very satisfied that the primary reason that we went to court has been upheld by the Court of Appeal of Barbados,” he added.
However, he said he was not sure about the striking down of other aspects of the Chief Justice’s decision by the Court of Appeal which held yesterday that Sir Marston was wrong to rule that the EBC had refused to register his clients as electors because they did not fill out an application prior to filing the substantive case in the High Court.
“I have not studied that. There were some other aspects of the ruling which I think were rather surprising, but essentially they don’t affect our clients’ right to remain on the electoral list and to participate in elections on the 24th of May. So in so far as that does not affect their ability to vote, I would have to read the decision and then confer with my clients and then determine what other steps we would make from here,” Nicholls said. [email protected]