Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

A resident of Tobago has filed a lawsuit against the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), over its recent report which led to the creation of three new electoral districts in Tobago.

Guardian Media understands that lawyers representing June Mckenzie, of Bacolet, Tobago, filed the judicial review application last Friday.

The case was randomly assigned to High Court Judge Carol Gobin, who yesterday informed Mckenzie’s legal team that she would hear the case in a roll-up hearing, in which she will consider whether Mckenzie should be granted leave to pursue the case while simultaneously considering the substantive issues raised in the case.

In addition to serving the lawsuit on the EBC, Justice Gobin also ordered Mckenzie to advertise the lawsuit in two daily newspapers, so that members of the public would be made aware of it and decide whether they want to apply to join as interested parties.

She also set a case management hearing of the case, which will be heard on an urgent basis, as the Tobago House of Assembly election is scheduled for December 6, on October 25.

In Mckenzie’s court filings, obtained by Guardian Media, McKenzie is claiming that she is interested in the issue as she is a public-spirited individual concerned with the democratic affairs of Tobago, having served as secretary for the Tobago East constituency during the tenure of former President and Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson.

Her lawyers are claiming that the EBC breached its statutory duties under Section 4 of the Election and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) Act, by allegedly utilising considerations that were not expressly or impliedly conferred by the legislation.

They are contending that when the EBC decided to split two existing districts into four new districts, it was done on a mathematical basis, with the districts with the highest number of electors being selected.

“However, when the Intended Defendant came to exercise its discretion in relation to the new 15th district, the Intended Defendant bypasses the largest electoral area for the creation of the new 15th district and instead uses the second largest electoral district for the creation of this 15th district,” Mckenzie’s lawyers said.

“The Intended Defendant, in its report, states that this was done to avoid “fragmenting” “communities” within the Providence/ Mason Hall/Moriah electoral district,” they added.

They also questioned the EBC’s consideration of community boundaries.

“These terms are vague, nebulous and uncertain. There is too great a risk of arbitrary application,” they said, as they suggested that natural boundaries such as major highways and rivers should have been considered.

Through the lawsuit, Mckenzie is seeking a series of declarations against the decisions contained in the report and an order quashing it.

When first confronted with Mckenzie’s challenge, EBC Chief Election Officer Fern Narcis-Scope claimed that the matter is closed, as the EBC report was submitted to the House of Representatives on September 10 and passed five days later before the President issued the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly) (Tobago) Order 2021.

Narcis-Scope denied any wrongdoing in relation to the commission’s report and said it was consistent with the statutorily prescribed procedure.

“It cannot be said that reasonable persons applying the appropriate principles could not have set the electoral boundaries as the Commission has or that the Commission took into account irrelevant considerations or ignored relevant ones,” Narcis-Scope said.

“It (EBC) did not identify “threats to the integrity of communities” and did not embark on any determination of “which communities could not be fractured.” The move to increase the electoral districts in Tobago was the result of a 6-6 deadlock between People’s National Movement (PNM) and Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) in the THA elections in January. The three new districts are Lambeau/Lowlands, Darryl Spring/Whim and Mt St George/Goodwood. All but two of the original 12 districts were slightly modified to make the change.

Mckenzie is being represented by Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon and Rhea Khan.