Six successful Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) candidates in the recently concluded Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections have threatened to sue the THA’s Clerk over the repeated rejection of their proposal to resolve an ongoing deadlock in voting for a presiding officer.
In a pre-action protocol letter issued, yesterday morning, lawyers representing PDP political leader Watson Duke, PDP chief secretary candidate Farley Augustine, Faith Yisrael, Terrance Baynes, Zorisha Hackett, and Ian Pollard claimed that the Clerk acted unlawfully by failing to use the drawing of lots to break the deadlock.
“This was clearly not an attempt to secure party-political advantage. If lots were drawn, the PNM was equally likely to succeed in securing its chosen candidate for Presiding Officer as the PDP,” attorney Lionel Luckhoo said, as he claimed that his clients merely wanted the Assembly to discharge its constitutional functions on behalf of the people of Tobago.
Referring to both sets of standing orders, Luckhoo admitted that the THA’s did not contemplate a deadlock situation but noted that it states that the House of Representative’s standing orders, which provides the method for breaking a deadlock, would apply in certain situations such as this.
Based on his analysis of the standing orders, Luckhoo claimed that the Clerk did not have the discretion not to use the drawing of lots as was done several times as the assembly met to resolve the issue following the January 25 poll.
“There is no reason to suggest that this solution of drawing lots would be inapplicable to the Assembly. On the contrary, it is obviously both applicable to resolving the present deadlock and essential to ensure that the Assembly is able to function,” he said.
He also suggested that the delay in resolving the issue was unacceptable.
“Moreover, the current impasse is unlawfully frustrating the democratic choice of Tobago’s electors,” he said.
In the letter, which was copied to the Office of the Attorney General and the six PNM assembly members, Luckhoo gave the Clerk until next Wednesday in which to respond to the legal threat.
The threat of the lawsuit comes as Parliament was set to debate the THA Amendment Bill 2021, which seeks to address the crisis caused by the tie in the election.
The bill seeks to increase the electoral districts from 12 to 15 so that fresh elections could be held.
The bill has received criticism from the PDP assembly members, the Opposition United National Congress (UNC), the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) Tobago Division, and several political analysts.
The PDP is also being represented by Rajiv Persad, John Heath, Joash Huggins, and Ajesh Sumessar.