AG welcomes court order to release SOPs; says CJ’s ruling ‘sound in law’
Hours after Chief Justice, Roxane George, SC, handed down her ruling on Thursday, ordering the copying and dissemination of over 4,000 Statements of Polls (SOPs) and Statements of Recount (SORs) from the March 2020 general and regional elections, the decision was supported by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC.
In a brief interview with the News Room from his Chambers on Carmichael Street, Georgetown, Nandlall said that the ruling, which also thwarted efforts by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to block the release of the documents, is “sound in law.”
“The ruling is in consonance with the general and established principle with law… it was untenable for Lowenfield to even think that he has exclusive control of the documents to the exclusion of the world,” Nandlall said.
Nandlall said although Lowenfield is the legal custodian of the documents, they are public and could have been secured for the purpose of prosecuting the criminal matters related to electoral fraud currently before the Magistrates’ Court, through different means.
“The SOPs are public documents, posted at each polling place at the night of the conclusion of counting on [March 02, 2020] … under the law, the police have power by virtue of a search warrant to enter into any place and seize property. Especially if it is evidential to prosecuting a criminal case, the police could have gone that route,” the AG said in reacting to the oral judgment.
Nandlall disregarded arguments by Lowenfield that he is the legal custodian of the documents and they should not be released, except for purposes of an election petition.
“Yes, the CEO has a right in law to keep all election documents for safe keeping. He is the official legal custodian, so he is right, but it does not mean that he is the exclusive keeper of the documents.
“In [the] appropriate instances, he has to part company with copies of those documents if the law requires it needs them in another forum… the law is not an ass. It would never create [criminal] offences in relation an election, and on the other hand, prevent relevant evidence from being released. Then, the law would be in collusion with itself,” the Attorney General explained.
Nandlall said the only recourse that Lowenfield has now if he so wishes to continue his objection to the release of the documents, is to appeal the Chief Justice’s ruling which denied his application to intervene in the matter.
The CEO was directed by a court order on January 8, 2021, to deliver the documents to the Supreme Court for safe custody.
The documents have been there ever since with Police Commissioner (ag), Nigel Hoppie and the Director of Public Prosecution, Shalimar Ali-Hack, now asking the Chief Justice to grant an Order, instructing the Registrar of the High Court, Sueanna Lovell, to make photocopies of the SOPs and SORs in her possession.
The SOPs and SORs are needed to bolster their criminal case against Lowenfield, the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers and the Returning Officer for District Four Clairmont Mingo.
They are joined on several charges by the Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Volda Lawrence and other party members.
The GECOM SOPs are key to settling the issues that arose after the March 2 general and regional elections.