The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sunday ruled that a St Lucia-born academic should be registered as an elector to cast a ballot in the May 24 general elections in Barbados and warned the Chief Elections Officer that failure to carry out the order by midday on Monday, May 14, could land her in jail for contempt of court or be fined.
In an unprecedented hearing, the CCJ, which is the Barbados final court, said that Eddy Ventose, a professor of law at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), had satisfied “the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector”.
In the ruling of the five-member panel of judges, read out by the CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, the court told Mrs Angela Taylor, the Chief Electoral Officer “shall register or cause the applicant to be registered as an elector before 12 noon on Monday, the 14th day of May, 2018”.
Sir Dennis said that if Taylor “does not comply with the order, you may be held to be in contempt of court and you may be imprisoned and or fined”.
Barbadians go to the polls on May 24 to elect a new government with the contest expected to be between the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) headed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) headed by Mia Mottley, who is seeking to become the first woman head of government in Barbados.
Election day workers, including police, will cast their ballots on May 17.
Political observers had said that the matter before the CCJ, which is Barbados’ highest court, has implications not only for the appellant but also for Commonwealth citizens, living in Barbados, who want to be registered to vote in the general elections.
Ventose, who has lived in Barbados for several years, sought to be included on the Barbados electoral register. He had alleged that under the prevailing laws he is qualified and entitled to be registered.
The Court of Appeal last week ruled that Ventose was entitled to be registered to vote but stopped short of compelling the Chief Electoral Officer to do so, instead, ordering the Chief Electoral Officer to determine Professor Ventose’s claim within 24 hours.
Ventose had asked the CCJ to declare that his name should be on the final voters’ list ahead of its publication this week.
The CCJ said that the request for appeal came late Friday and it responded by scheduling the hearing for Sunday.
Sir Dennis said the application for special leave to appeal filed on May 11 had been granted as well as the application “to treat this hearing as an urgent matter”.
“The application for special leave to appeal is being treated as the substantive hearing of the appeal,” he said, adding “the appeal is allowed and the orders of the Court of Appeal are set aside”.
Sir Dennis said that the CCJ is satisfied that the applicant has locus standi . . . under the Administrative Justice Act … to bring judicial review application under Section three of the act.
“The long standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors … is unlawful and ultra vires. The Court is satisfied that on the basis of judicial finding pronounced in this matter, which has not been appealed, the applicant has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector,” Sir Dennis said.
The costs for this court and the court below were awarded to the appellant. – CMC