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Henry Charles on Collet’s appointment

GeneralHenry Charles on Collet’s appointment

Public Service Minister says appointment of Hon. Collet Montejo to Re-division Task Force is permissible

BELMOPAN, Wed. June 22, 2022
Today, Minister of the Public Service
and Constitutional Reform, Henry
Charles Usher, said that, in his layman’s
view, the sections of the law referred
to by the United Democratic Party
(UDP) as the basis for the party’s
objections to the appointment of PUP
senator Hon. Collet Montejo to the Re-
Division Task Force do not apply to
him, since his appointment to the task
force was made by the Elections and
Boundaries Commission.


Usher stated, “In reference to
whether that particular section of the
Constitution would apply to Mr.
Montejo – I looked at it, I read it over,
and that section deals with persons
appointed to a post by law. I don’t see
Mr. Montejo being appointed to any job
or any post in the public service, and it
deals with public officers that have to
with conducting elections. For instance,
the Chief Elections Officer could not
be a senator, according to the
Constitution, because she is in charge
of conducting elections. Similarly,
section (b) of that particular section of
the Constitution speaks about persons
who have to do with the revising of the
electoral list, so any individual within
the public service at Elections and
Boundaries that deals with revision of
the electoral list, that person would not
be able to serve as a senator under the
Constitution. Mr. Montejo is not in
charge of elections, he is not revising
any election list. He is merely a technical
part of a task force appointed by the
Elections and Boundaries Commission,
so in my layman reading, I don’t see it
as being a conflict.”


A press release dated June 9 had
informed the public that, in preparation
for an imminent redistricting exercise
aimed at ensuring a more equal
distribution of voters across the
country’s constituencies, Hon. Montejo
had been appointed as the supervisor
of all the fieldwork involved in the
gathering and providing of information
regarding the various features of each
constituency—including the various
facilities and transport options within
the divisions, as well as the physical
layout of the division and the
distribution of the population across the
various divisions, in accordance with
section 90(2) of the Constitution.


As previously noted, it was the
Elections and Boundaries Commission
that appointed Montejo, but the UDP
has called for his resignation from the
Senate—arguing that he cannot remain
in that legislative body as a PUP
representative while also serving on the
Re-division Task Force. According to
the UDP, such a dual role would
contravene the provision in the law
which bars those engaged in work
pertaining to elections from sitting
within the House of Representatives or
Senate.


Chairman of the UDP, Senator
Michael Peyrefitte, who has outlined an
interpretation of the law that contrasts
with the views of Minister Henry
Charles Usher, indicated to local media
earlier this month that the holding of
any office that is related to the conduct
of any election disqualifies a senator,
making it imperative that Montejo steps
down.


Reading from section 63(f)(1), he
said, “no person shall be qualified to
be appointed as a senator who, and we
go to (f), is disqualified, for
membership of the House of
Representatives by any law by reason
of his holding or acting in any office,
the functions of which involve (1) Any
responsibility for, or in connection with,
the conduct of any election, or (2) Any
responsibility for the compilations for
revision of any electoral register.” “This
man has taken on a job to do that exact
same thing,” Peyrefitte then said.


In a letter sent to the Chief Elections
Officer, one of the commissioners of
the Elections and Boundaries
Commission, Alberto August, who
formerly served as UDP chairman,
called the appointment of Montejo
“totally out of order”, referring to
Montejo as a “fanatic PUP.” He added
that the workings of the task force
should at least appear to be nonpolitical,
but today, Minister Usher said
August’s role as a member of the
Elections and Boundaries Commission
taints that independent body with his
own political bias.


“He is the deputy chairman of the
[UDP]. He sits on the commission.
They are the ones that will be putting
together the recommendations that have
to be laid to the National Assembly. It’s
not the task force, so if anybody should
not be there, it should be Alberto
August,” Usher said

He added, “He is the one that should
be stepping down from the
commission, in my opinion. Having
someone on a task force doing a
technical job is completely different
than actually sitting on the
commission.”
Minister Usher said that one aspect
of reform that the People’s
Constitutional Commission may have
to look at is making changes to the law
to ensure the independence of the
processes carried out by the Elections
and Boundaries Commission—even
possibly creating two separate bodies,
one of which would address boundary
matters while the other deals with the
conduct of elections.


“It might require something that the
People’s Constitutional Commission
looks at – in certain jurisdictions,
Elections Commission and Boundaries
Commissions are separate. We have
one commission that deals with
elections and boundaries, and
remember, it’s the boundaries
commission that deals with the
redistricting in other countries, whereas
the elections commission deals with the
conduct of elections. So, perhaps there
should be a separation of those and you
have a commission that is truly
independent and bi-partisan,” Usher
said.

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