Dr Keith Rowley
By Sue-Ann Wayow
PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley will be sharing legal information with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) with reference to United National Congress (UNC) candidate for Princes Town Barry Padarath.
Padarath who is the present Member of Parliament regained the seat in the general election.
On Tuesday, following confirmation of the People’s National Movement’s (PNM) success in the election, the political leader at a press conference said he could not make any final decision regarding the appointment of Padarath as MP.
During the campaigning period, the PNM raised the issue that Padarath was not eligible to contest the election as he did not sign a necessary consent form required by law.
Padarath returned from the US in July and was in 14-day State quarantine as required by all travelers to Trinidad and Tobago during that period, a measure that continues to be in effect. The PNM claimed that Padarath should have signed the form since he was in the country and not the agent who submitted Padarath’ nomination papers.
Dr Rowley said the PNM was not going to take the matter to court “because it is not free, it is not cheap and it is not without risk.”
He said he came to that conclusion after the election petitions filed by the UNC following the 2015 general elections.
Dr Rowley said the UNC lost the matter in the Court of Appeal in February this year and now has to pay the legal costs to the PNM and the EBC.
He said the PNM’s statement of costs for the four-and-a-half-years of litigation was $23 million and the EBC cost is approximately $14million. These claims, he said will be adjudicated in the courts in the next few months for a final decision to be made.
Dr Rowley said this meant that the people who took the matter to court has this liability to the PNM and the state.
He added, “I am not prepared to expose the PNM to this situation so as to make a point.”
But, Dr Rowley said the PNM was satisfied that Padarath was not properly nominated.
He said, “And I would ask the Attorney General to advise the country and to question the EBC as to whether this is not a matter for a determination by the court without the kind of exposure that I am steering the PNM away from.
“Because this country must want to know and the law must be settled as to whether a Member of Parliament is sitting in there while having been improperly nominated.”
When questioned about the issue by journalists, Rowley said, “The only thing I will do is to share with the EBC which is an independent body, the legal advice that I have. They could look at it, they could throw it away, they could read it. By sending them the legal advice, that is just for public interest and then everybody who is involved including the citizenry should determine what this means.”
He added, “The bottom line is that you don’t get nominated by who vote for you. You get nominated by complying with the law and I think the people in Princes Town would subscribe to that too.
“The law is not flexible depending on who is involved or how you vote. We are here having to face a situation of what is the letter of the law in this matter because the Parliament spell it out in law, how a nomination becomes usable and valid and it spells out how one is invalidated.”
Padarath had many times fired back at the PNM describing himself as a fighter and that he would indeed retain his position as MP for Princes Town.