Constituents of Princes Town are being advised not to vote for United National Congress (UNC) candidate Barry Padarath in the August 10 general election because his nomination is flawed.
This was disclosed by People’s National Movement (PNM) Chairman Colm Imbert, who confirmed yesterday that the PNM intends to take legal action to challenge the nomination via the filing of an election petition.
Speaking at a news conference at the PNM’s campaign office in St Clair, Imbert said Padarath being in quarantine on nomination day (July 17) did not mean that he could not sign his consent form as required by law.
Nothing barred him from signing the letter and having it delivered by his agent to the Returning Officer, Imbert said.
Imbert said once Padarath was in the country on nomination day, he was required by law to sign the consent form, which he did not do.
In outlining the legal steps, Imbert said a pre-requisite was that a notice had to be published in the newspapers informing the electorate that Padarath’s nomination is invalid and therefore any votes cast for him will be null and void.
He said flyers would also be distributed in the Princes Town constituency informing the electorate of the situation.
“It is not a trivial thing,” Imbert said.
Asked whether the PNM will be seeking a by-election in the event Padarath is successful at the polls, Imbert said: “We are of the view that once we let the electorate know in advance that he (Padarath) is not validly nominated, then the second person (the person with the second highest number of votes) should be declared the MP.”
Imbert said the PNM believed that the Representation of the People’s Act was “sacred and should be followed religiously” and that was why the party intended to challenge Padarath’s nomination papers.
He said the “important words” in Election Rule 7 (3) were that the consent form should be signed by the nominee himself and only if he is absent from the country can it be signed by his agent.
Imbert said according to the election rules, the nomination papers must be posted up at the place of the Returning Officer in all 41 constituencies.
“I think they have to be there for ten days after nomination day...Mr Padarath’s papers were posted at the office of the Returning Officer for Princes Town and we have copies of it...Mr Padarath’s nomination papers utilised the wrong form, unfortunately,” Imbert said, producing copies of the document.
Padarath used Form 38, which is used when an agent signs for the candidate, instead of Form 37 which is required when the candidate is in the country and is signing for himself.
“It appears that it is his agent who was the one who signed and not him,” Imbert said.
The signature on the document (which was provided to the media) shows that the consent form was signed by Dhanmatee Dhanraj, “the “duly-authorised agent of the candidate”.
Acknowledging that Padarath was in quarantine, having returned to Trinidad from the United States on July 11, Imbert said the election rule indicated that the documents (signed by the candidate), could be brought to the Returning Officer by the agent.
“There is no requirement on the part of the candidate to physically appear at the office of the Returning Officer and submit (in person) his/her nomination papers,” he said.
In the case of Padarath, Imbert said the normal precautions of having someone come in a “hazmat” suit or with PPE (personal protective equipment) could have applied, with that person giving the form to Padarath to sign and the document fully sanitised, then delivered to the Returning Officer.
He said Padarath arrived six days before nomination day, when there was ample time for these arrangements to be made.
Asked whether the PNM’s action could be deemed undemocratic, Imbert said he was 100 per cent satisfied that had one of the PNM candidates made any error, no matter how small, “like a wrong ID number”, the UNC would not have hesitated to go to court to challenge the validity of the nomination of the PNM candidate.
In response to a question, Imbert said he was not sure whether the Returning Officer would have known that Padarath was in the country, when he accepted a nomination form signed by his agent.
He said, though, that Padarath’s arrival was “widely publicised”.
Imbert said the law stated that once the documents are accepted by the Returning Officer, then a challenge must be done by way of an election petition.
“The election would go on, the person’s name would be on the ballot but within an eight-day period after the election day, any aggrieved person can challenge the nomination by submitting a petition to the court,” he said. Imbert said the PNM intended to write the EBC to tell them the party’s view on this matter.