Karen Nunez-Tesheira has taken “comfort” from the fact that Judge Devindra Rampersad recognised that the case brought by her (and two others) against the People’s National Movement (PNM) had legal and judicial validity.
The former minister and current candidate for the post of political leader in the PNM internal election was commenting following the judgment of Justice Devindra Rampersad yesterday, which denied her application to prevent the holding of the PNM internal election on the scheduled dates of November 26, 27 and December 4, and to postpone it until determination of the substantive claim.
The substantive claim was that the decision to spread the election from one to three days was unconstitutional.
Nunez-Tesheira also pointed out that the judge stated: “The court is of the respectful view that there is an issue to be tried, an issue which is more than just fanciful but which is a real one for determination.”
“So he is saying that what we brought before him has value, and requires consideration by the court and requires adjudication by the court,” she added.
She pointed out it was an interim injunction that she had sought, pending the determination of the substantive matter.
She said the substantive issue (which is still to be heard) was whether Article 18 (1) of the party’s constitution, which says that “there shall be an election day”, allows for an election to go from one to three days; and whether the general council had the authority to make that decision, or whether it requires a constitutional amendment (to the party’s constitution) which must be done in conformity with Article 17 (4) (d) of the constitution.
This provision states that “the Annual Convention shall be the supreme body of the Movement and shall have the following rights, powers and duties to consider, adopt and amend or deal in any way with the Constitution of the Movement”.
Respect for rule of law
Nunez-Tesheira said the whole case turned on the issue of whether the general council had the authority to extend the election beyond one day.
In other words, whether this change be made by a simple majority (i.e., the general council) or does it require a constitutional amendment and, therefore, a special majority, which means the annual convention.
“This is the substantive matter that was put before the judge.... And he recognised that the answer was not a simple one,” she said.
She said she was happy the judge seemed to think she had a good case.
Nunez-Tesheira noted the judge stated that “arguably in a case where there is a special provision for the amendment of the constitution, the simple majority of those in charge may not be sufficient”.
Nunez-Tesheira said the judge however seemed to look at other matters which were not substantive to the core issue.
Those issues, according to the judgment, included the potential for an unfair election, the absence of actual evidence that any of the incumbents in the upcoming elections had an unfair advantage in relation to information, and the delay in bringing the application for the interim injunction.
“With all due respect (to the judge)”, she wondered about the decision to allow the election to go ahead, in the context of having stated that there is a serious issue to be tried.
However, Nunez-Tesheira stressed that she respected the rule of law, the judge and the judgment.
“The law allows us remedies to go forward if we need to, and I think that his (the judge’s) words give us more than encouragement, it gives validity to our central argument of whether the general council could have done what it did.... He did not answer it, but we take comfort in the fact that he recognises that it is something that needs to be decided upon,” she said.
Attorney Peter Taylor, who represented Nunez-Tesheira, said the court left the constitutionality point undecided and, therefore, it remains a live issue.
“If His Lordship felt the constitutional point was unclear, we were looking forward to a more definitive pronouncement on this issue, but by not making a pronouncement, it leaves it open to an interpretation,” Taylor said, adding that this matter would set a precedent for the future.
Attorney Egon Embrack said the fact that the general council may not have been properly constituted when it made its decision on August 10 suggested that “an avalanche of defaults and injustices” flowed from that decision.
Cummings: We welcome the decision
PNM general secretary Foster Cummings said yesterday the party welcomed the decision of the court. “We can now move towards the much-anticipated internal elections of the PNM to elect its new executive, with the widest possible participation of party members,” he said.