The leader of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM), Trevor Walker, is asking the High Court to prevent the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) from having the people of Barbuda cast their ballots in the March 21 general election on the island of Antigua.
Barbuda was severely affected when Hurricane Irma passed through the Lesser Antilles last September forcing the Gaston Brown government to order a total evacuation of the island. But since then such a measure has been relaxed and many of the 1,600 Barbudans have returned to their homes.
In January, the Commission wrote to Prime Minister Gaston Browne indicating that it had decided that the poll for the constituency of Barbuda would be done in a constituency in Antigua based on the “prevailing circumstances resulting from the hurricane which ravaged the island of Barbuda.”
But Walker, who filed the application, said ‘we are asking the Court for an interim injunction to prevent the Electoral Commission from allowing Barbudans to vote in Antigua.
“We feel that there is no special circumstances that prevent Barbudans from voting in Barbuda and so we are asking the Court for an injunction to stop them until the substantive matter can be heard,” he told the Observer Radio.
Last week, Walker’s attorney, Charlesworth Tabor, wrote to ABEC chairman, Nathaniel “Paddy” James, indicating that the Commission was misinterpreting the law.
“Sir, please be advised that your interpretation of Section 35 of the Representation of the People Amendment Act, No. 17 of 2001 is incorrect and unlawful.
“Section 35 deals with matters that can be addressed in a constituency with respect to a polling district and polling places within a district in the said constituency. It does not address the issue of moving electors in one constituency to vote in another constituency, albeit they will be casting their vote for a representative of the House for the constituency from which they have been removed,” Tabor wrote.
Walker said that the ABEC has given no reasonable excuse as to why Barbudans should vote in Antigua and that the Representation of the People’s Act indicates that proper notice of changes should be given to constituents.
“I want the public to be made aware that we only heard about a change in polling place last week and the election is in two and a half weeks.
“We are saying Barbuda is not inhabitable, the law gives them the option of making certain changes based on circumstances. Unless those circumstances exist, which the law never defines really then we feel that it is important for the Electoral Commission to follow the law and conduct the poll within the constituency, and that is Barbuda” Walker said.
In the last general election in 2014, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) won 14 of the 17 seats with the remainder going to the United Progressive Party (UPP).