Nevis Registration Officer takes witness stand

Bernadette Lawrence

Charlestown, Nevis–(Tuesday, January 24, 2012) Registration Officer for Nevis, Mrs. Bernadette Lawrence, took the stand Monday in the Election Petition case now ongoing at the High Court in Charlestown, Nevis. She was cross-examined for a total of about four hours by Lead Attorney for the Petitioner, Mr. Douglas Mendez S.C.

During the cross examination, Mrs. Lawrence was taken through minute details of the procedures she followed regarding the filing of objections; sorting and compiling a list of the persons objected to; the preparation of Notices of Objections; the preparation of Posting Lists and other tasks related to the procedure for mailing by registered post within the prescribed time frame; the scheduling of hearings of objections; the procedure adopted at such hearings; the reasons for her decisions; the recording of those decisions; the way in which she informed the objectors of her decisions, and the time frames within which most of these activities took place.

Through it all, Mrs. Lawrence displayed full knowledge and understanding of all the procedures in the minutest detail. She was able to provide the rationale for her decisions on every count. Mr. Mendez took her step by step through a number of her Decision Sheets which recorded the reason for her decision in each and every case. Mendez also spent considerable time questioning the Registration Officer on the time period within which the Notices of Objection were sent to the Post Office by the Electoral Office and the time taken by the Post Office to send them to the persons concerned. Mrs. Lawrence insisted that her legal duty was to ensure that the notices were sent to the Post Office well in advance of the scheduled hearing. She pointed out that the notices were sent by Registered Post and that all she was required to do was to ensure that the Post Office had them by a certain date ready for mailing. This she said she did. Interestingly, Mr. Mendez never questioned the Registration Officer about a large number of cases decided by the registration officers in Nevis that were appealed before the High Court. In his testimony in the first week of the case, the Hon. Alexis Jeffers who won the St. James seat for the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), told the Court that he had lost all sixty-plus cases that he appealed.

Mr. Mendez started his cross-examination by questioning Mrs. Lawrence about an allegation by CCM activist Elton Marcus Hull that she was an executive member of the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP). Hull in his testimony had conceded that he did not know for a fact that she was a member of the NRP executive. Mrs. Lawrence strongly refuted the allegation.

Having heard from Mrs. Lawrence, who was the final witness called to give evidence, Justice Lionel Jones, the Trinidadian Judge hearing the matter, adjourned Court to Wednesday in order to give attorneys for the petitioners the opportunity to prepare their final oral submissions. Thursday has been set aside for closing arguments by the respondents. Written submissions should be filed within seven days. The case brought by the losing CCM candidate in the St. John’s constituency, Mr. Mark Brantley, was scheduled for two weeks beginning January 16, 2012, and is expected to be concluded on time.

There is as yet no indication as to when Justice Jones Is likely to hand down his decision.

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