UP party inadmissible in quest for complete voting register

POSTED: 08/29/14 2:35 AM

St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance declared the United People’s party and its president Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce inadmissible yesterday in a lawsuit that the party filed in an effort to obtain a full copy of the voters register.

The UP, represented by attorneys Peggy Ann Brandon and Brenda Brooks, filed the lawsuit against the Minister of General Affairs and the Government of St. Maarten. Judge Katja Mans ruled in summary proceedings however that the minister and the government are not legal entities and that it is not possible to involve them in a legal procedure. “Only the public legal entity the Country Sint Maarten has the required legal personality.”

Because the UP had not sued Country St. Maarten, the judge declared the plaintiffs inadmissible. Brandon and Brooks said outside the courtroom that they would file another lawsuit that could be handled today.

Attorney Brandon told the court that the UP had asked the Minister of General Affairs, Sarah Wescot-Williams, for an electronic copy of the voters register to determine whether people who have registered as a member of the party, are eligible to vote. The party-membership is limited to eligible voters, the attorney said.

She furthermore pointed out that the party is only allowed to accept donations from registered voters. This stipulation from the Ordinance Registration and Financing Political Parties applies however only to donations above 5,000 guilders (almost $2,800).

“Without the voters register the party is unable to abide by its legal obligations.”

Brandon also referred to article 8 of the Voting Ordinance that stipulates that the minister is obliged to allow perusal free of charge. She also noted that the ordinance of Public administration does not bar delivery of the register.

The attorney for the minister and the government, Richard Gibson Jr. pointed out that the plaintiffs ought to be declared inadmissible, because they had summoned the minister and the government. “Only parties that have legal personality can be summoned,” he said.

Apart from this, the Voting Ordinance also prohibits delivery of the complete register, Gibson said. “Under the Voting Ordinance of the Netherlands Antilles it was possible to obtain the register against payment and no authorization was necessary. But article 8 of the Voting Ordinance of St. Maarten states that people are only allowed to request information from the register about themselves or – if they have power of attorney – for someone else.”

Gibson did not see why the UP would need the complete register to control whether its members are eligible voters. “The members can ask for this information themselves and show it to the UP.”

Judge Katja Mans noted that the UP, in a letter dated August 13, stated that the party needs the register to control whether it is correct, but also to reach out to potential voters.

Answering a question from Judge Mans, Gibson said that no other party had submitted a request for the complete voters register.

Attorney Brenda Brooks said that the refusal to deliver thee register is a violation of a constitutional right. She pointed out that Leona Marlin-Romeo, the number 2 on the USp-list, who is working at the Census office and the Minister of General Affairs Sarah Wescot-Williams, the number 1 candidate of the Democratic Party apparently have access to the register. She said that these candidates have approached voters, telling them that they are listed in the register and then asking for their vote.

UP President Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce told the court that she had gone to the Census Office to ask for the voters register. “It was promised to me but I received the 2010 register while I had asked for the 2014 register. I think I have the right to ask for that information. We have proof that other parties have access to it.”

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