It is the first of its kind in Belize, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin yesterday, Monday, May 14, 2018, heard the claim brought by Andre Perez against San Pedro Town Mayor Daniel Guerrero. Perez has contested the March 7 municipal elections results for the PUP claiming that there is a discrepancy with regards to the results of San Pedro Town. While deliberations ensued in court, a small protest took place in front of the Supreme Court building.
Daniel Guerrero won out Andre Perez the elections by only 38 votes and immediately after the People’s United Party (PUP) contested the results by alleging multiple irregularities in the handling and reconciling go the ballots.
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay stated that the case is weather or not the election was conducted in accordance with the Town Council regulations and Town Council Act. A number of these incidents with non-compliance was actually confirmed in court by the returning officer Ms. Cumberbatch, Chief Elections Officer and also by Presiding Officer Mrs. Flowers.
Presiding officer Desiree Flowers admitted that during the reconciliation of ballots she wrote down wrong figures, an error not witnessed by P.U.P. scrutineer Alex Noralez before he signed off on the document. She insisted it was just an error but could not say why the mistake was made.
After the hearing Courtenay stated that what his team will attempt to do in their submission is to persuade the Chief Justice that the irregularities which they have identified and have been admitted to are not in compliance with the law.
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay
“We heard Mrs. Comberbatch admitted that she had to correct a lot of the papers,” stated Courtenay to the media. “We had the amazing confession from the Elections and Boundaries Commission that after the elections, they had the ballots and they opened the envelopes and counted the ballots. That is not in compliance with the law, but the point is that all these irregularities we saw are sufficient to ask the Chief Justice to say that the elections must be re-held.”
He explained that Ballots C-A were of the most important pieces of evidence. He indicated that there were 675 electors casting their votes in that box. At the end of the balloting the officers only put on the form 400 and the question was where are the additional 275 ballots? Courtenay says that they (Ms. Cumberbatch in particular) realized this mistake and simply stroke out the numbers and add 275 to correct it. This is the point his team is making to the Court Justice.
“I pointed out to Ms. Cumberbatch that she could have only certified that she checked the actual ballots and made sure that the 275 ballots were accounted for and then put it on the form,” commented Courtenay. “She did not do that and therefore her certificate of correcting it in our submissions cannot be relied on. That is just a mathematical correction to try to reconcile what they had on paper. This case is not about mathematics, its about the politics and the votes. And the question is what were in those envelopes with the ballots. She did not count them and cannot testify to their accuracy.”
“The regulations are very clear; once those ballots have been counted the presiding officer should seal the envelopes and hand them to the returning officer. The law is very clear that they should not be opened until and if they are brought to court by a order of the court. We have a Chief Elections Officer saying that she opened and counted them. We no have no confidence as to where those ballots are, the status of them, weather they are all accounted for. That is an issue that we will be addressing to the Chief Justice.”
Representing the United Democratic Party (UDP) is Estevan Perrera who believes that the minor miscalculations in the official tally would not be enough to set aside the election. He stated that the case is going better for their side than for the P.U.P.’s and that the other side has not done enough to convince the court in his view. The case was adjourned to May 28 at 10a.m.