UNC files pre-action letter against PM over election postponement

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. File photo/Marvin Hamilton

THE Opposition United National Congress (UNC) has sent a pre-action protocol letter to Government seeking to reverse the decision to extend the life of local government.

Government has been given until November 14 to make the necessary changes. If not, an application for judicial review will be filed in the High Court.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar confirmed at the UNC’s Monday night Virtual Report that the letter had been sent, in the name of blogger and activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj.

She said the first proposed defendants are the Prime Minister, Attorney General Reginald Armour and Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi.

In the letter, issued through the law chambers of former AG Anand Ramlogan on Monday, Balgobin-Maharaj said he was looking forward to the local government elections, which were constitutionally due between December 2022 and March 2023.

He said he has been personally aggrieved by the decision denying him the right to exercise his civic duty to vote for a new representative in the hope that better representation could be provided for the people in his electoral district of Maracas/Santa Magarita.

Last week Al-Rawi announced the decision to extend the life of local government by a year, which will in effect cause the postponement of the elections of councillors.

Asserting that the postponement for a year is illegal, Persad-Bissessar said the UNC will not let this rest.

“We have caused our lawyers to send out a pre-action protocol letter against the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, against the disgraced, now sitting AG and former disgraced AG, Faris, in his capacity as Local Government Minister,” she said on the UNC platform.

“Our pre-action letter has gone out today (Monday) by electronic mail to these three persons, proposes an application of leave to apply for judicial review between Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj versus the Cabinet of the Republic of TT and (the) Minister of Rural Development and Local Government.”

Accusing the Government of eroding the country’s democracy, Persad-Bissessar said, “It is clear that the intention they had when they made the declaration, was to postpone the elections, but it was reported as ‘councillors have been given one more year.’

“So, they expected the councillors to clap and say, ‘We get a next year, no election,’ when the true extent is the devious manner in which it was done, to say councillors getting one more year.

“Why? Because we have to deal with this reform?

“What utter madness and totally unlawful action on behalf of the Government. So elections are due now – one year later. That is what is the point.

“It is not whether they get one more year, or five and ten or 20 years – It is that they have postponed, illegally, the local government election.”

She said the decision had to do with Government’s fear of losing the elections.

“They are scared,” she said, promising the UNC would win the San Fernando City Corporation and Sangre Grande seats whenever elections are called.

The Prime Minister is quoted in the Express as defending the decision, saying the UNC cannot now claim ignorance, as it was part of the local government reform legislation.

He said this was the subject of discussions at the meeting of a parliamentary joint select committee and was debated in the House and Senate and passed.