Lawyers for both sides told reporters that they had anticipated Tuesday’s ruling by Justice Esco Henry to hear, at the same time, a motion to throw out the petitions, as well as a counter application that that motion is an abuse of the process.
“We are ready. We have been working hard and we are ready,” said Richard Williams, one of the attorneys representing the Ralph Gonsalves government after the end of Tuesday’s proceedings.
He told reporters that the proceeding had gone as his team anticipated and that the respondents were quite happy with the fact that the judge decided to hear first the motion to strike out.
“… It is practical. It doesn’t make any sense you waste money and expense to prepare for the hearing of the substantive matter and there is an application to strike it out. So we are quite happy that the judge has decided to move forward with the preliminary points, and let’s see where it goes from here,” he added.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the NDP had asked the court to give direction for a trial, but the respondents had argued that their motion should be heard first.
The petitioners are arguing that the motion to strike is also not properly before the court and should be dismissed and the judge hears the substantial arguments of the petitions.
But Williams dismissed this argument, posited Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John, the lead lawyer for the petitioners, as “part and parcel” of the NDP’s argument.
“But I don’t think really it has much merit. But, as you say, we have to wait and see.”
Meanwhile, John said that unlike the respondents – whose case is led by Dominican Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan — he anticipated that the court would hear on Tuesday, the respondents’ motions to strike out the petition.
“We anticipated that her ladyship was likely to proceed in the similar way,” John told reporters, echoing comments he made to the media while the judge’s decision was still pending.
“In fact, I did say to my colleague Mr. Astaphan that I think the judge would start hearing the motions to strike this (Tuesday) afternoon. He didn’t seem to think so,” John said.
Asked if he was confident that the arguments are on the side of the petitioners, John said, “well, with these matters, it is difficult to say you are confident. But we feel that we have persuasive argument. We are preparing right up to the last wire.
“We are doing the best we can in giving the court the fullest assistance in deciding the matter in the fashion in which we are asking the court to decide.”
The NDP had filed the petitions challenging the results of the results in the Central Leeward and North Windward constituencies in the 2015 general elections.
The Court of Appeal in March reverted the case to the High Court, ruling that High Court Judge Justice Brian Cottle showed apparent bias last June when he threw out the petition as improperly filed.
The ULP won a fourth consecutive general election victory after it secured a slender one seat majority in the 15-member Parliament.
However, the NDP has cited irregularities in the electoral process and has taken the matter to court.
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