Saturday 4 April, 2020

Court rules in Commonwealth citizens' favour

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

Commonwealth citizens who wish to register to vote in the upcoming general elections can now do so without objections following a decision by the Supreme Court which upheld the laws surrounding their voter rights. 

The ruling was handed down by Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson, on Monday after a group of Commonwealth citizens successfully challenged the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in court for the right to vote. 

Speaking at a press briefing held at the office of the Barbados Bar Association, attorneys Wilfred Abrams, Gregory Nicholls and Fay Finnisterre spoke on behalf of the "disgruntled and upset" Commonwealth citizens who, in their attempts to register with EBC, were turned away for not having permanent-resident or immigrant status.  

Abrams said the EBC has been refusing to register citizens despite them having met the necessary three-year criterion of living in Barbados as stated under the Representation of the People Act. He said the four non-nationals - St. Lucian Professor at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Eddy Ventose; Grenadian, Shireen Ann Mathlin-Tulloch; Jamaican, Michelle Russell and Monsterrat national, Sharon Edgecome-Miller, were repeatedly frustrated in attempting to get their claims filed which he noted was "contrary to the law". 

Nicholls said the right of Commonwealth citizens to vote is not new but "enshrined in the law". He questioned why the EBC would choose to act as a law unto itself when the policy is already clearly set out in the Act. 

"This decision basically affirms what the law has said. It is a strange thing where you have a very significant branch of the Executive defying the law and the Chief Justice made it clear that Parliament is the only authority that can determine, lawfully, who is allowed to vote and not the EBC," Nicholls said. 

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He said if the EBC felt the three-year policy was insufficient they should seek legal recourse to amend the legislation. 

Abrams said, while he is unable to confirm the exact number of Commonwealth citizens who now have the official green light to complete the voter registration process, he said the court's ruling should not affect the EBC's preparations for the upcoming general elections, constitutionally due by June. 

Abrams said they should move with haste to register those who meet the criteria.

"This cannot be a surprise to the Electoral and Boundaries Commission because they had notion of the action for some time and if I were them I would have put things in place to register the people."

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