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The United National Congress intends to mount a legal challenge against Fern Narcis-Scope’s appointment as Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Chief Elections Officer.
Addressing a meeting at the St Helena Hindu Primary on Monday night, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was of the view “the appointment was unlawful and not in accordance with Public Service Regulations.”
She said in making the appointment the Public Service Commission (PSC) bypassed a number of people who were “eminently more qualified than the person appointed,” whom she said “did not even satisfy the minimum qualifications.”
“She was not even a member of the public service,” Persad-Bissessar said.
In seeking to clarify the process used in Narcis-Scope’s appointment, the PSC has said the position was advertised within and outside the public service and 44 applications were received and 12 were short-listed. The selection of the best candidate, it said, was guided by possession of requisite skills, knowledge, competencies and abilities to effectively perform the duties of the CEO. Narcis-Scope, who previously held the EBC senior legal officer post, was deemed most suited for the office.
The PSC said in accordance with the provisions of sub-sections (3) to (5) of Section 121 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister was consulted on whether he had any objection to the appointment and confirmed in writing that there was none and Narcis-Scope was appointed. But on Monday Persad-Bissessar said although the PSC “informed us that Dr Rowley signalled his approval to this appointment, it is not clear that he had any power so to do, but such was his enthusiasm to ensure this appointment was secured.”
She also dismissed claims by Rowley that she was consulted on the appointment.
“First of all he lied, second he lied again and third more lies.. The President does not appoint the Chief Election Officer and therefore there is no duty to consult the Opposition Leader.”
Under the Constitution, she said the responsibility is vested in the EBC to ensure elections are held in a free and fair manner and in accordance with the law.
Noting that the UNC had taken the EBC to court over its decision to extend the voting time in the 2015 general election by an hour, she reminded the crowd that “both the High Court and the Court of Appeal found that the EBC acted unlawfully in extending the voting hours.”
Today, she said, “the person who was responsible for providing that advice to the EBC has been appointed the Chief Election Officer. The person who gave the advice that caused the EBC to spend millions in defending their actions is today promoted. It seems to be there is clearly more in the mortar than the pestle.”
“So relative and bad legal advice,” she said in reference to allegations that Narcis-Scope is related to a government minister.
On November 6, attorneys for EBC Deputy Chief Election Officer Lena Sahadeo also said they were mounting a legal challenge over her being bypassed for the post.
In a letter to the EBC and PSC Sahadeo’s attorneys made requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for information and records related to the PSC’s recruitment for the post. Sahadeo’s lawyers —Abdel Mohammed and Kent Samlal—said their client had instructed that at her interview process she felt rushed and was prevented from answering questions “in the interest of time” and as a result felt she may not have been treated fairly in the interview process.” Her attorneys have requested that the criteria used for selection, a list of all the people interviewed, Narcis-Scope’s curriculum vitae, interview notes and Sahadeo’s ranking compared to other candidates be disclosed.