Turks and Caicos by-election to go ahead

By Caribbean News Now contributor

GRAND TURK, Turks and Caicos Islands — Several recently filed election challenges got underway in the Supreme Court in the Turks and Caicos Islands on Thursday and, on Friday, the chief justice dismissed one such challenge that will now enable the by-election in the Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hill district of Providenciales to go ahead as planned.

The need for a by-election arises from the general election poll on November 9, 2012, being voided by Supreme Court, having determined that one of the unsuccessful candidates was not qualified to contest the election and which affected the result.

Two of the challenges were withdrawn on Thursday. Despite objections by the acting attorney general Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, the challenge brought by Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate Oral Selver against his Progressive National Party (PNP) opponent in the Cheshire Hall/Richmond Hill by-election Amanda Misick was discontinued on the grounds that an identical challenge by the attorney general rendered it unnecessary.

A corresponding challenge brought by Premier Rufus Ewing’s sister Althea Ewing-Williams, as a registered voter in the Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hill district, was also withdrawn as disclosing no cause of action.

Braithwaite-Knowles argued that Misick was disqualified from election as a result of her late filing of a required declaration of interests in government contracts.

Counsel for Misick argued that, under section 63(3) of the Elections Ordinance, the by-election was deemed to be held as part of the last general election held preceding the issue of the writ and that, given the agreed fact that Misick had disclosed this interest in question for the purposes of that general election and that her position had not changed in the interim, she was not required to file a further notice to the Integrity Commission for the purposes of the by-election.

The chief justice agreed with the arguments put forward on behalf of Misick and accordingly ruled that there was no requirement for her to file a second notice with the Integrity Commission, having already done so prior to the general elections in November last year.

The chief justice made it clear, however, that this decision is confined to by elections arising from a successful challenge by petition to an election. It does not extend to a by election resulting from other reasons such as resignation or other disqualification. Nor will it assist a candidate in such a by election who was not previously a candidate who had given notice, or any candidate who had not subsequently reported any change.

Out of time challenges by the attorney general against five sitting members of the House of Assembly: George Lightbourne (PNP); Edwin Astwood (PDM); Derek Taylor (PDM); Josephine Connolly (PDM); and Delroy Williams (PDM) for their alleged failure to disclose government contracts prior to the general elections in November last year are still due to be heard.

Given the importance of the outcome, the court will resume hearing the remaining challenges on Saturday.

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