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Friday, 24 July 2020

Trinidad and Tobago General Elections

Q: What is the law regarding the date of general elections in Trinidad and Tobago?

A: According to the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution, a normal Parliamentary term is 5 years.
68. (1) The President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, may at any time prorogue or dissolve Parliament.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), Parliament, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date of its first sitting after any dissolution, and shall then stand dissolved.

Section 68(3) allows the President to extend the term by 12-month periods for up to 5 years in times of war.

This Parliament’s first sitting was on Friday June 18, 2010 at 1:30pm. Therefore, the 5 years will end on Wednesday June 17. However, the general elections can be called at any time within three months of the dissolution of Parliament:

69. (1) A general election of members of the House of Representatives shall be held at such time within three months after every dissolution of Parliament as the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, shall appoint.

History of elections:
The People of Trinidad and Tobago voted for the first time in what could be designated a general election on Saturday 7th February, 1925.
Over the decades, Trinidad & Tobago was to go through several constitutional (political) developments, until the P.N.M’s coming into office in 1956. Between 1925 and 1956, there were several General Elections held: 1928, 1933, 1938, 1946 and 1950. There was supposed to have been General Elections in 1943, but it was suspended until after the War, which resulted in the General Elections of 1946.

During this period (1925 to 1950), adult franchise was granted for the 1946 General Elections, with the age of majority then being 21 years of age in order to vote. This was to be further reduced to 18 years of age with the Republican Constitution of 1976.

In the meantime, the General Elections for 1955 were constitutionally due by September, 1955. However, the Constitution Reform Committee, had by Majority Report, recommended postponement.  This postponement, with an election date to be set, had to be set officially by the Colonial Office, in London, which subsequently directed the Governor that the term of the Legislative Council be extended to for an eight-month period, operating up to the 26th May, 1956.  This meant that with the minimum four-month period for holding elections after the dissolution of the Legislative Council, would mean that elections would be held on the 26th of September, 1956.  However, because that date would occur on a mid-week day, Wednesday, and since Monday is always more convenient for elections, the date for Election Day shifted to the start of the working week of Monday the 24th of September, 1956.

Since then, the following are the dates of general elections:
1961 - General elections were held on 4 December. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 20 of the 30 seats.

1966 - General elections were held on 7 November. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 24 of the 36 seats.

1971 - General elections were held on 24 May. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won all 36 seats.

1976 - General elections were held on 13 September. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 24 of the 36 seats. 

1981 - General elections were held on 9 November. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 26 of the 36 seats

1986 - General elections were held on 15 December. The result was a victory for the NAR, which won 33 of the 36 seats.

1991 - General elections were held on 16 December. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 21 of the 36 seats

1995 - Early general elections were held on 6 November after the ruling PNM had seen its majority reduced to a single seat due to a defection and a lost by-election. The results saw the PNM and the UNC both won 17 seats. Although they had received fewer votes, the UNC was able to form a coalition with the two-seat National Alliance for Reconstruction, allowing UNC leader, Basdeo Panday, to become the country's first Indo-Trinidadian Prime Minister.
2000 - General elections were held on 11 December. The result was a victory for the UNC, which won 19 of the 36 seats. 

2001 - Early general elections were held on 10 December, after the ruling UNC lost its majority in the House of Representatives following four defections. However, the election results saw the UNC and the PNM both win 18 seats. Although the UNC received the most votes, President A. N. R. Robinson nominated PNM leader Patrick Manning as Prime Minister.

2002 - Early general elections were held in Trinidad and Tobago on 7 October, after PNM leader, Patrick Manning, had failed to secure a majority in the hung parliament produced by the 2001 elections. This time the PNM was able to secure a majority, winning 20 of the 36 seats.

2007 - General elections were held on 5 November. The PNM party under the leadership of Patrick Manning won 26 of the 41 seats in Parliament. The UNC-A, under the leadership of Basdeo Panday won the 15 remaining seats. The COP did not win any seats

2010 - A general election was held on May 24. The date of the general elections was announced by Prime Minister Patrick Manning on April 16, 2010, via a press release. The election was called over two years earlier than required by law. Polls showing that the UNC-led opposition coalition was likely to win the election were confirmed by the subsequent results.
The final outcome has the People's Partnership winning 29 seats, and the PNM winning 12 seats. As a consequence of the People's Partnership's win, Kamla Persad-Bissessar of the People's Partnership coalition was elected Trinidad and Tobago's first female Prime Minister.

2015 – General elections were held on 7 September. The result was a victory for the PNM, which won 23 of the 41 seats.

2020 - General elections are carded for Monday 10th August 2020.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

R.I.P. George Floyd - Black Lives Matter


Do you agree with the charges laid against the police officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25th May 2020?



I am in full agreement with both charges.

 Charge #1: 2nd Degree Manslaughter

Minnesota Statute 609.205 – there are five (5) categories of 2nd degree manslaughter, all of which carry a maximum prison sentence of ten (10) years or a $20,000 fine; however, this post will only focus on the offence applicable to the killing of George Floyd:

  • A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree…

(1)    by the person's culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another


Charge #2: 2nd Degree Murder (upgraded from 3rd degree murder)

Minnesota Statute 609.19 - there are two types of 2nd degree murder, both of which carry a maximum prison sentence of forty (40) years:

  •  Intentional Second degree murder by drive-by shooting is exactly as it sounds.
  •  Unintentional second degree murder has two subcategories:

(1) causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense** other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence or a drive-by shooting; or

**[for this category to apply, first proving the felony offence of “manslaughter” is mandatory]

 (2) causes the death of a human being without intent to effect the death of any person, while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the victim, when the perpetrator is restrained under an order for protection and the victim is a person designated to receive protection under the order.

[This subcategory clearly doesn’t apply]

 Former charge – 3rd Degree Murder

Minnesota Statute 609.195 – there are two (2) categories of 3rd degree murder, both of which carry a maximum prison sentence of 25 years; however, this post will only focus on the offence applicable to the killing of George Floyd:

(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life…

 The issue with the 3rd degree murder charge is proving that the defendant was, at the time of the incident, “evincing a depraved mind”. What exactly does this term mean? Well, in the Supreme Court of Minnesota case of Statev. Mytych 194 N.W.2d 276 (1972), the judges stated that “a mind which has become inflamed by emotions, disappointments, and hurt to such degree that it ceases to care for human life and safety is a depraved mind.”

 I don’t think it will be possible to prove this aspect of the charge for Chauvin, although there have been comparisons to the 2019 conviction of former Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor, for 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter in the 2017 shooting death of Australian-born, Justine Ruszczyk a month before her wedding. I maintain that the two circumstances are vastly different.




Friday, 29 May 2020

The Illegality Defence

If I am right in a vehicular accident, but didn’t realise that my insurance policy had lapsed, can I sue the other driver for damages?

Ex turpi causa non oritur actio ("from a dishonorable cause, an action does not arise") is a brocard (legal Latin terminology) that refers to the fact that no action may be founded on illegal or immoral conduct. 

Driving without insurance is illegal, contrary to the Motor Vehicles Insurance
3. (1) Subject to this Act, it shall not be lawful for any person to use, or to cause or permit any other person to use, a motor vehicle or licensed trailer on a public road unless there is in force in relation to the user of the motor vehicle or licensed trailer by that person or that other person, as the case may be, such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third party risks as complies with the requirements of this Act.

(2) If a person acts in contravention of this section, he is liable to a fine of seven thousand, five hundred dollars and to imprisonment for two years, and a person convicted of an offence under this section shall (unless the Court for special reasons thinks fit to order otherwise and without prejudice to the power of the Court to order a longer period of disqualification) be disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving permit under the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act for a period of three years from the date of the conviction.

As a result, if the defendant relies on this defence, your claim will be unsuccessful because had you not acted illegally by driving without insurance, the accident would not have occurred.