UNC loses election petition over Arima Northeast; ordered to pay EBC’s legal fees

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UNC loses election petition over Arima Northeast; ordered to pay EBC’s legal fees

A procedural error has led to the United National Congress (UNC) losing its election petition over the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) handling of the Arima Northeast District in last month’s local government elections.

The judgement was made early Monday by High Court Judge Frank Seepersad, who upheld an application from the EBC to strike out the case.

The EBC contended that the petition, pursued by UNC candidate Jairzinho Rigsby, should have named People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate Kim Garcia, who was declared the winner after a recount and verification exercise, as the respondent.

Justice Seepersad said the procedure suggested by the EBC was vital under the Representation of the People Act.

While he noted that Rigsby’s complaints against the EBC were not frivolous, Justice Seepersad stated that the error in filing and serving the case was substantial and fatal to it.

Justice Seepersad then ordered Rigsby to pay the EBC’s legal costs for the petition.

The petition centered around the EBC’s handling of a recount, and a subsequent review of queried ballots conducted after an initial count on election night (August 14) resulted in Rigsby and Garcia each receiving 623 votes.

The recount took place on August 16 and resulted in Rigsby being declared the successful candidate having received an additional vote.

Garcia was eventually declared the winner after the review as two previously rejected ballots were reconsidered and ascribed to her.

In the petition, Rigsby’s lawyer Arif Rahman took issue with the two ballots, which he contended should not have been deemed valid.

Through the petition, the UNC was asking the court to disqualify both or either ballot. If one was successfully invalidated, it would have meant that Rigsby would be declared the successful candidate.

Rigsby was represented by Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon, and Kavita Moonasar. The EBC was represented by Deborah Peake, SC, Ravi Heffes-Doon, and Alana Bissessar.