People’s United Party to seek judicial review over rejection of Elvin Penner’s recall petition
Monday, January 20th, 2014
The People’s United Party (PUP) will seek a judicial review regarding the actions of the Chief Election Officer Josephine Tamai in which the recall petition of Elvin Penner was rejected. The Leader of the PUP, Honorable Francis Fonseca flanked by senior party officials and attorney, said that his party will challenge Tamai’s decision. The party officials used the opportunity to lash out at the Election and Boundaries Department at a press conference on Thursday January 9th in which they strongly condemned the rejection of the recall petition.
The Election and Boundaries Department said that after one month of careful review, 337 of the 2002 signatures of petitioners were rejected for various reasons including 83 for duplicating and triplicating signatures. The PUP indicated that after quickly looking at the list of rejected signatures of petitioners, they have a strong case and the party will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court of Belize.
According to PUP Secretary General and a former Chief Election Officer Myrtle Palacio, the 79 plus petitioners that signed the petition more than once were “huffed” (blocked) of their democratic right. “They should not be reprimanded. There is nothing in the act that gives her [Tamai] that authority. No one has the authority to arbitrarily remove a voter from the list… Over 83 voters (79+4) were disenfranchised and stripped of their power and deprived of their right. The decision to reject their signatures has distorted the will of the people of Cayo North East to recall Penner.”
PUP Senator Lisa Shoman, one of the legal advisors for the PUP, pointed out that when there is no regulation in regards to a piece of legislation, it is expected that you resort to what is called “condition of fair proceeding.” According to Shoman, the decision to reject the over 337 signatures, were “unlawful, unreasonable and irrational.” She explained that Tamai’s decision was “unreasonable” because, by her own admission, there is nothing in the Act that gives her the power to reject the 79+4 petitioners that signed more than once.
According to Orlando Habet, Cayo North East PUP aspirant who ran but lost to Penner in the last general election, some residents in the area were intimidated. “Residents are saying that their lives were threatened. Those that signed are saying that UDP functionaries visited them to say that their land will be taken away and no Christmas hamper would be given to them because their names were on the recall petition. So when the Crime Investigation Branch officials visited some of these people to verify their thumb prints and signatures, they believed that they were UDP functionaries and they were scared,” said Habet.
According to PUP Party Leader Francis Fonseca, on the surface after reviewing the list of signatures that were rejected, 140 signatures on the petition have been unlawfully rejected. “We need to tackle this in parallel tracks both legal and political… we have to deal with it with legally. We have an obligation to the Belizean people to take the matter to court… We will have political mobilization where we will mount an educational process and we will start in Cayo North East starting Sunday [January 12]…. We are in no mood to be in any friendly discussion with Mr Barrow. The Belizean people have given up on this government.” Fonseca told the press that in every instance that Tamai has been in a position to be fair in the good interest of the Belizean people, she has ruled in favor of the ruling UDP government.
Not only has the PUP indicated that they will seek judicial review but Fonseca went on to say that the PUP will internationalize the issue in which the government decided to stifle the recall of Penner.
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