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Apr 8, 2019

Chief Elections Officer in Contempt of Court?

Josephine Tamai

Was Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai in contempt of court last Wednesday when she sent out a memo following the CJ’s decision to grant an interim injunction?  Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay put forward in his submissions this afternoon that Tamai’s actions by instructing members of staff to proceed with referendum preparations, despite the Supreme Court ruling, was contemptible.  Here’s how Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte responded.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“According to him, Ms. Tamai was in contempt of court when she continued the preparations for the referendum on April tenth.  Ms. Tamai sent an email which was sent based on legal advice which she got from me personally.  She called me on the phone and I gave her the advice that the Chief Justice had only said that the referendum could not be heard on April tenth.  The Chief Justice clearly also said that there are three Court of Appeal judges resident in the jurisdiction and that clearly he was expecting a quick appeal, but at no time did the Chief Justice say that preparations for the referendum should stop.  And, in light of the fact that it is very likely, possible that the Court of Appeal could, if it decides, reverse the Chief Justice’s decision today then there would be a different comment had the people stopped the preparations and only to have a referendum April tenth and not be ready.  So it was my advice for her to be ready in the event that the referendum would still be held on April tenth and that was clearly spelled out in her letter to her co-workers and that was clearly my advice.  I think it’s a nonstarter to be honest with you, I think it’s more for sensationalism than anything else.  …they’ve already given indication that they may abandon that argument, so it’s neither here nor there as far as I am concerned.  She was not in contempt, clearly not in contempt, I would not have advised her to be in contempt.”

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