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Saldivar Loses Round 2; PUP Will Hold Belmopan Convention Sunday

Saldivar Loses Round 2; PUP Will Hold Belmopan Convention Sunday
August 24
21:49 2018

Justice Courtney Abel of the Supreme Court this afternoon dismissed the application for an injunction, filed by Attorney Arthur Saldivar, to postpone the People’s United Party’s (PUP) planned Belmopan Convention this Sunday. Saldivar had grounded his claim on the issue of bias on the part of the PUP’s Vetting Committee which reviewed his application as a candidate.

During a day of arguments, which eclipsed the lunch hour, Saldivar’s Attorney, Cristoff Rodriguez, made his arguments via video teleconference from Trinidad.

From the onset of the proceedings, however, it was established that two of the six Respondents, Leni-Jo Usher and William Stewart, who are on the Vetting Committee and were accused of bias, had not been summoned to appear in Court to defend themselves. In the case of Usher, she could not have been served because she is out of the country. In the case of Stewart, the Claimant simply had not served him with the papers. Rodriguez asked the Court to consider if the matter could proceed, nonetheless, considering the urgency of the matter.

Justice Abel pointed out that this request changed the nature of the application to an exparte hearing. He later ruled that the Court could not make a judgment on a matter where the Respondents were not given the chance to be present to defend themselves.

The hearing proceeded on because of the urgency of the matter, because the Convention was set for Sunday. Saldivar’s intention was to get the Court to intervene and rule that Sunday’s Convention needed to again be postponed and that he be given a third opportunity to be considered by a Vetting Committee whose composition did not include Usher and Stewart, based on his claim of bias.

But because the Court could not address that issue of bias, it significantly weakened Saldivar’s case. In addition to that, the Court found that Saldivar and his Attorney also breached their duty of candour, by “cherry-picking” the affidavits they would attach as a part of this claim, and failing to include others which the Court considered to be key in its deliberation process. Justice Abel said this could be viewed as also misleading the Court. One of the affidavits not included was a default judgment for $294,000 which Saldivar said he invested on campaign work in Belmopan before his first application was declined by the Party. Saldivar later explained these factors that affected his desired outcome of the case.

“We had the previous case which ended in a default judgment,” Saldivar explained after the ruling. The view of my Attorneys was that there was a requirement to bring a new claim, as opposed to attaching this application to the old one. In relation to that being done, the Court is saying, ‘no, that it should have been a continuation of the case that we perceived to have been finished.'”

The Judge also ruled that there is the matter of legal right and political right and that it was not the business of the Court to get involved in the internal affairs of party politics.

Saldivar is not left without options, however. He said he will consult with his supporters to determine whether he will decide to contest in the next General Elections as an independent candidate.

While he says he respects the ruling of the Court, he cannot agree with the position that he and PUP are at odds, as the Judge thought.

“The Executive is not the Party; the totality of the members is the Party. Remember, it is the People’s United Party, not the National Executive Party, not the Special Interest Party,” Saldivar remarked, adding that it should be the people to decide if they wanted him to run.

PUP Chairman, Henry Usher, who himself was a Respondent in the case, said the Party has discussed formalizing the procedures of the vetting and selection of candidates. The process being used this year, however, will remain in effect for the other conventions, he assured.

As far as Saldivar and the PUP go, Usher said Saldivar must take some steps in order to again earn its confidence and support. Those steps include meeting with the leadership of the Party, the National Executive and the Chairperson of the Vetting Committee.

The PUP’s Belmopan Convention, meanwhile, will go on as planned with three candidates vying for the position of Standard Bearer for the Party in that division.

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