Opposition MP Dinesh Rambally says the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) acted outside of its legal remit in the creation of District 15 in Tobago.
Rambally was speaking in Parliament during the debate on a motion to consider the Draft Report of the EBC (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) Order, 2021.
He said the laws that govern the EBC do not allow it to cite a desire not to fragment a community as a reason for not splitting the Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah constituency.
“The Legislation at the Second Schedule provides the EBC with a certain power and discretion. It empowers the EBC to balance a specific set of factors that direct to what ends their authority should be exercised. Stepping outside of the statute will constitute ultra vires activity by the EBC,” Rambally said.
Ultra vires means acting beyond one’s authority. Rambally said the EBC’s decision to instead remove polling divisions from the neighbouring district of Goodwood/Belle Garden West, went beyond the power and discretion permitted to them under the EBC Act Second Schedule.
“For example, there are no provisions for delimitation of electoral districts utilizing factors such as community fragmentation,” he said.
He said although the Government may defend this move by saying there should not be a push to realistically split a community, the law does not provide for the EBC to take those factors into account.
Rambally said even if the community fragmentation was to be taken as a factor in the EBC’s decision, the report does not contain any details to support this.
He said this leads him to believe there was no consultation with the people of Tobago before the decision was taken.
“You see, it would be impossible for the Commission to appreciate the interests of the various and diverse communities and the range of concerns simply on the basis of the knowledge and personal experience of the members of the Commission.”
Rambally said the Parliament cannot focus solely on the goal of creating three new electoral districts as the process needs to be scrutinised.