On May 29, Elvin Penner is scheduled to return to the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court, where he has been charged with two criminal offences in a private lawsuit by the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA).
The issue of his recall, however, resurfaced in compelling fashion when Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel ruled to allow the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) a judicial review of the Chief Elections Officer’s decision to invalidate 337 petition signatures on December 30, 2013.
A judicial review seeking a writ of certiorari against the Chief Elections Officer for her exclusion of 337 signatures was successfully argued by PUP attorneys Lisa Shoman and Anthony Sylvestre, representing claimant Orlando Habet and four others from the Cayo North East constituency.
Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai and the Attorney General were represented by the Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke, who opened the hearing submitting that Habet and two of the applicants did not have the requisite “locus standing” for the application.
But Justice Abel did not uphold that submission. Instead, he allowed Habet to continue with the claim, citing that he is the PUP standard-bearer and as such, the decision of the Chief Elections Officer affected him. However, he “filtered out” two of the other claimants for ease of case management.
The decision has huge implications for the embattled Cayo North East area representative, the scandal-plagued Elvin Penner, who has so far been cast aside by his United Democratic Party leadership after his Won Hong Kim passport scandal took on a life of its own due to the public’s outcry to hold him accountable.
If the PUP can convince the court that the Chief Elections Officer did not act reasonably when she excluded some of the petitioner’s signatures, because, in some cases, they had signed the petition more than once, then they would be able to reach the threshold that is necessary to trigger the recall process in Cayo North East.
Following the hearing, Shoman explained to reporters what they are fighting to accomplish.
She said that they are fighting on behalf of the people who signed the petition twice, so that their petition can be counted.
She said that the law does not indicate a penalty for signing a petition twice.
“We are saying the law doesn’t say that it is a penalty at all. So if we get those 79 (who signed twice) and we get the 52 whose signatures didn’t match the binders and we get some of the 52 who they say were not registered, we will cross the threshold and there will be a recall referendum,” Shoman said.
Shoman added: “Now winning that referendum is another matter, but we are confident that we will be able to get the reliefs needed to be able to cross the threshold that the Governor General will have to trigger a recall referendum on Elvin Penner remaining as area representative, and I think, with the present climate, my client is very confident that we will cross that sixty percent threshold.”
The case is set to be heard on July 2, 3, and 4.