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Chief Justice to rule on PUP election petition Print E-mail
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Thursday, 31 May 2018 00:00

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin is in the process of deliberating how he will rule for the PUP’s Election Petition against the San Pedro Election Results. Mayor Daniel Guerrero and his UDP team won, but the PUP’s want to get the Municipal Elections for that town voided. They want a second chance at municipal government in San Pedro.

Readers will remember that it is the PUP 7 Team that are the petitioners in the lawsuit. They include the Mayoral Candidate, Abner Andre Perez, Dianeli Aranda; Johnnia Duarte Graniel; Urbina “Dina” Graniel; Marina Kay; Ruben Navidad; and Ian Pou.

The chief respondents are the UDP 7 Team which were chosen by the People of San Pedro for another term in office. They are the Incumbent Mayor, Daniel “Danny” Guerrero; Hector “Tito” Alamilla; Flora Ancona; Ruben “Rux” Gonzalez; Gary Kristopher Grief; Severo “Severito” Guerrero; and Gabriel “Gaby” Nunez.

The PUP 7 has also sued the Chief Elections Officer, Josephine Tamai, and Chief Meteorologist Catherine Cumberbatch, who acted as the Returning Officer for these elections.

Their chief complaint against the elections are that from their perspective, there is a discrepancy in the total number of ballots for polling station #37 on the island. They dispute the results, saying that 275 ballots were not accounted for. They insist that these ballots could have played a significant role in the outcome of the elections since, the margins by which they lost were small.

On Monday, May 28, all the litigants returned before Chief Justice Benjamin where the 3 attorneys: Eamon Courtenay for the PUP, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke for the two Elections and Boundaries Officials, and Estevan Perrera for the UDP, all presented their final legal arguments. They all examined the evidence presented, and sought to convince the judge to come to their viewpoint of what the testimonies and witness statements indicate in this lawsuit.

Coming out of those arguments Solicitor General Hawke told the press that he wasn’t too impressed with the PUP 7’s attempt to convince the court that the elections results should be set aside.

Hawke said, “Our submissions are fundamentally based on the fact that they are challenging the results based on ballots that are unaccounted for, when the evidence suggests, by their own witnesses, that used ballots have been accounted for. So, we say that there is a great paradox here. Why did they bring the petition, if they accepted that the ballots used determines the results? But, we have to wait for the judgement of the court.”

He was joined by the UDP’s attorney, Estevan Perrera, who told the press, “Our position is simple… because the petitioners said that a fire exists, doesn’t make that so. They have to prove it to the court. They have to show, and they have to provide evidence of this. We are saying that they failed to provide any evidence clearly substantiating their position that a fire did in fact exist. We’re saying that there was no irregularity.”

Unfortunately, in their crusade against the election results, their focus has shifted unto the public officers from the Elections and Boundaries Commission, who acted as referees.

Courtenay insisted in his legal submissions before the judge, and in his comments to the press, that Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai somehow mishandled the ballots, and that this is reason enough that the election results should be set aside.

He said, “The ballots and the papers related to it were unsealed, first by Miss Cumberbatch… and then secondly by the Chief Elections Officer. We believe that the law is very clear. Regulation 84 and Regulation 89 prohibits and proscribes anyone from tampering with ballots and/or election papers after the counting is completed. And these were gross violations. Beyond that, the Chief Elections Officer was very clear that she and Mr. Zuniga counted the ballots when Miss Cumberbatch handed them over to her, and that nobody from the People’s United Party was present. That is an absolute flagrant violation of the law, and what it does is that it undermines the integrity of the electoral process.”

In a television interview 2 weeks ago, Chief Elections Officer Tamai asserted that her actions are well above reproach.

She said, “The information that is being circulated in the media in terms of myself, Josephine Tamai, as the chief elections officer, counting ballots after San Pedro elections is totally false. It’s a lie. I have never opened any envelope to count any ballots that were used in the San Pedro elections… and I believe that I must clear my name. I have been the Chief Elections Officer for some time now and I have conducted several elections and I know what is my duty and what is my role.”

Chief Justice Benjamin has reserved his decision to be handed down within 2 weeks time.