It appears that the PNM—in anticipation of Barry Padarath winning the Princes Town “seat” and the UNC forming the government with a majority of one seat—will take the hindsight decision to file an election petition.
This petition will request the court declare Padarath’s victory at the polls null and void and the PNM candidate, Sharon Baboolal (anticipating the second highest number of votes), the valid elected MP for the said Princes Town seat.
However, it is my considered legal opinion that having regards to the circumstances surrounding the fact that Padarath’s agent signed the prescribed form for his consent as a candidate, and not he himself, the anticipated PNM election petition to have his anticipated victory declared by the court null and void is frivolous and vexatious.
The foremost point to be made on Padarath’s behalf is that he is fully qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives, as per Section 47 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago: he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago of the age of 18 years or upwards, and he resided in T&T for a period of two years immediately before the date of his nomination for election.
It must be especially noted that the Representation of the People Election Rules at Rule 7 (3) dictates that no nomination paper shall be valid or shall be acted upon by the Returning Officer unless it is accompanied by the consent in writing of the person therein nominated or, where the person is absent from T&T, by the consent of his duly authorised agent expressed in duplicate in the form set out as Form No 37 or 38, as the case may be, in the prescribed form rules.
It is instructive to note that Form 37 applies to the candidate if he is in T&T on the date of his nomination, and thus he himself must sign and give consent to his nomination as a candidate; and if he is out of the country (on his nomination date), his duly authorised agent can sign on his behalf as giving consent vis-a-vis his candidacy as per Form 38.
The nomination date on the prescribed form for Padarath was July 10, 2020, and on that date he was out of the country. Thus, his authorised agent was entitled in law to sign the prescribed Form 38 on his behalf, as per his consent, to contest the general election as a UNC candidate for the Princes Town constituency.
The spirit and intent of the sub-legislation of Regulation 7(3) Election Rules is to ensure the prospective candidate in the election for the House of Representatives is fully qualified and is in full agreement of contesting the general election.
It is instructive to note that the Returning Officer in relation to Padarath’s situation is entitled to hold a nomination paper invalid only on one of the following grounds: that the person signing the nomination paper is not as required by law, or the nomination paper is not signed as so required. See Regulation 6 of the Election Rules.
The Returning Officer accepted Padarath’s nomination paper dated July 10 as validly and legally signed on his behalf by his authorised agent because he, the Returning Officer, was satisfied that on July 10, 2020, Padarath was out of T&T.
I thus call upon the voters residing in the constituency of Princes Town not to be misled by the PNM bush lawyers that the candidacy of UNC candidate Barry Padarath is invalid.
Justice for all.