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May 28, 2018

Final Arguments for San Pedro Election Petition

The two municipal election slates from San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, continued their fight in the Supreme Court this morning. The People’s United Party’s Andre Perez and the United Democratic Party’s Daniel Guerrero engaged in a spirited battle on March seventh in which Guerrero’s team emerged narrowly victorious. According to Perez and his colleagues, they do not trust the safety of the results due to changes made to the official papers after they signed off on them.  Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai told the court that she counted election ballots at her office, ostensibly to verify that the total of used and unused ballots was the same. News Five’s Aaron Humes was back at court today and has the following report.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai has denied re-counting all the ballots from the San Pedro municipal election, but attorney for defeated mayoral candidate Andre Perez, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, insists that that is exactly what she said on the witness stand two weeks ago.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Andre Perez

“The Chief Elections Officer was very clear that she and Mister Zuniga when Miss [Catherine] Cumberbatch handed them over to her, and that nobody from the People’s United Party was present. That is an absolute flagrant violation of the law, and what it does is that it undermines the integrity of the electoral process. My learned friends suggested to the court that that type of violation is acceptable; that type of violation is minor, it is trivial and the court should tolerate it, and saying that the people in Battlefield Park would live with that type of treatment of an election. As we submitted, we in the People’s United Party do not accept that the Chief Election Officer or anyone else for that matter, should have access to the ballots and the papers after the election. We in the People’s United Party reject, completely, the notion that you can open the ballot papers and open the envelopes and take out the things and deal with them and tamper them after we have left the counting room. That is, in our view, a violation of the basic tenets of Belizean democracy.  I saw what she was supposed to have said and I think one of two things happened there. One, either she forgot what she said on the witness stand, and we have the transcript to prove it; or secondly, she has been told that she needs to change her tune. It’s interesting: when you go back to the eighth of March, and I encourage the press to go and look at her press release because right there is where it is all revealed. She issues a press release and says, listen, the official results are not out yet, and they won’t become official until Miss Cumberbatch brings them to me, and ‘the Chief Elections Officer will verify the results.’ That is exactly what she testified to here: she testified that when Miss Cumberbatch brought the things to her, she and Mr. Zuniga counted them. Later on in her cross-examination, she tried to change and say I only counted the unused ballots; it’s irrelevant. She should never, ever, have opened those envelopes.”

 

But attorney for Guerrero, Estevan Perera, questions: so what if she did?

 

Estevan Perera

Estevan Perera, Attorney for Daniel Guerrero

“Anything that could have transpired after the election took place, the counting took place, the final reports being published in the Gazette – anything that takes place after that cannot affect the outcome of an election. We are saying that any of those allegations that they are now presenting, saying that something occurred after all this – we’re saying that whatever it was, even though we deny it, that that could not have affected the election results that took place on the night of the elections.  How could it?”

 

And Solicitor General Nigel Hawke says he’s still not sure of what the P.U.P. team’s case is.

 

Nigel Hawke

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General

“We made our submissions; our submissions is fundamentally based on the fact that they are challenging the results based on the ballots that are unaccounted for, when the evidence suggests, by their own witnesses, that all the used ballots have been accounted for. So we say there is a great paradox here: why did they bring the petition, if they accepted that the ballots used determined the result? But we have to wait for the judgment of the court.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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