Legal Advisor to the Supervisor of Elections sets the record straight, says he operates independently
Mr Arundranuath Gosai
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JUNE 19TH 2011 (CUOPM) – Crown Counsel in the Attorney-General’s Office, Mr. Arundranuath Gosai is challenging statements made by the Leader of the Federal Opposition – Mark Brantley, suggesting that his recent legal advice to the Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Leroy Benjamin was in some way compromised and dismissing the notion that there was a conflict of interest.
Mr. Gosai, speaking to WINN FM during an exclusive interview on Saturday, agreed that Mr. Brantley was correct that he did work for the Chambers of the Attorney-General.
However, while that was the case, Mr. Gosai said that the difference was that he was not a clerk in the office of the Attorney-General and disclosed, he had been contracted to work by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and was attached to the Attorney-General’s Chambers to provide legal advice to the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis/
“….and so when a matter comes to me I exercise an independent legal judgment on the matters and that is generally speaking, but more specifically, in relation to election matters, the practice has been, since I’ve been here in 2005 and I started working under His Excellency Delano Bart, Queens Counsel, and subsequently under Dr. Dennis Merchant, that having been involved in these electoral matters for 6 years the supervisor of elections would consult me directly in these matters,” Mr. Gosai said.
So after assuming office in 2010, Attorney-General Patrice Nisbett, would have met that process in place, “where regarding electoral matters, I deal with almost all of the electoral matters and so, in asmuch, as the Honourable Patrice Nisbett is my boss, I exercise, and all the other lawyers in the Chambers that is the same practice, ….you’re are professional, you have to extend an independent professional opinion,” he added.
Mr. Gosai explained that the Attorney-General did not direct him and that he exercised his independent legal judgment.
Mr. Gosai was responding to statements made to the media by Deputy Leader of the opposition party, the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) in Nevis and the Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament Mr. Mark Brantley.
Mr. Brantley has questioned advice he offered to the supervisor of elections in an electoral matter related to the registration of voters. He suggested that advice coming from Mr. Gosai, who worked for the Attorney-General, was compromised, as the Attorney-General was a candidate in the upcoming elections and therefore had a vested interest in the outcome of decisions made in regards to the voters register.
Mr. Gosai dismissed the notion that there was a conflict of interest saying, “The aspersions that is being cast by Mr. Brantley is as though I will do what the Attorney-General tells me regardless whether its proper or lawful or whatever the case may be, but in this particular case I don’t see where the conflict arise.”
Giving an example to reinforce his point, he said, “…let’s assume that after the local elections in Nevis the person running against the Honourable Patrice Nisbett, let’s assume he is to lose that seat and he files an election petition, is Mr. Brantley suggesting then in those circumstances that the legal Chambers cannot provide legal advice to the Supervisor of Elections in an elections petition? I disagree totally with that.”
Last week, the Supervisor of Elections Mr. Leroy Benjamin, acting on Mr. Gosai’s advice, refused to comply with directions given to him by the Electoral Commission that voters who were confirmed on the Register as of January and who had been issued ID cards, should not be removed from the Voters List.
Their instruction followed a meeting with Mr. Brantley’s CCM party who said they presented evidence of such persons having had their names removed from the list, they say, without explanation. The party has charged that in many cases these voters were notified that their names had been objected to after the objection hearing had been held. Their names were removed, and they were later told by the electoral office that there was nothing that could be done about it.
The Elections Supervisor informed the Commission that neither the Electoral Commission nor even he, the Supervisor of Elections had any authority to interfere and/or direct the functions of Registration Officers in the exercise of their functions.