ROSEAU, Dominica, Wednesday December 4, 2019 – An attempt to stop general elections from proceeding in Dominica on Friday will head to the Court of Appeal, after a High Court judge yesterday refused to grant a group of concerned citizens an injunction to postpone the polls to next February.
The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) had asked the court to issue an interim injunction restraining the parties concerned from holding the elections on any date prior to February 5, 2020 unless the procedures are fully in place to hold the elections. They have argued that there are irregularities in the list of electors and election reform is necessary for the country to have free and fair elections.
But Justice Bernie Stephenson ruled that the court does not have the jurisdiction to grant such an injunction, since President Charles Savarin had already issued the writ to hold the polls, and the challenge could only be made by election petition.
“The conduct of election in Dominica is governed by the Constitution. When an election is called, the country enters into a period called elections, the Parliament is dissolved. This court cannot intrude on the elections once the writ has been issued by the President. I understand that the applicants may have legitimate concerns but that can be done otherwise – and that is after the election, via elections petition and so, declare that this court has no jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought,” the judge said.
Her ruling yesterday came after hearing arguments from both sides on Monday on whether the court had jurisdiction to grant the requested injunction.
The team of lawyers for the petitioners, led by attorney Cara Shillingford, will lodge an appeal with the St Lucia-based Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
“We are not surprised at the decision and will appeal. We remain firm in our conviction that the elections should be stopped and there are too many irregularities for the December 6th, 2019 election to go ahead,” Shillingford said after the ruling.
But Lennox Lawrence, who appeared on behalf of President Savarin – who was named as a respondent along with the Electoral Commission, the Chief Elections Officer, the Cabinet of Dominica, the Attorney General and the state-owned DBS radio – told reporters the law in Dominica and other parts of the Commonwealth was clear on the matter and the court had simply applied the law.