Shedrack’s application to strike out petition dismissed

Speaker of Parliament and his supporters on Malekula, a day after Polling day.

The Supreme Court has declined and dismissed the application of the Speaker of Parliament to strike out the petition submitted by former Member of Parliament (MP) for Malekula Constituency, Don Ken.

On April 24, 2020, Mr. Ken filed the election petition disputing the election of the Speaker, MP Gracia Shedrack. The petition alleges that the MP Shedrack spent money in form of cash donations and donations in kind, in the period January 22, 2020 to March 19, 2020.

These dates were within the period commencing at the end of the life of Parliament to and including the polling day, contrary to s. 61A of the Act. Such non-compliance is alleged to have affected the result of the election.

Legal counsel for MP Shedrack submitted that subsection 57(2) of the Act required that the petition be filed within 21 days of the alleged payments of money or other reward set out in the petition. The last alleged payment was made on March 19, 2020, therefore, the petition had to be filed by April 8, 2020.

In her submission, the legal representative for the petition submitted that this proceeding had already been listed for hearing of the petition, therefore, a strike-out application was precluded.

Further, that subsection 57 (2) allowed a petition to be presented within 21 days of alleged payments that were made “after an election”. In the present case, the specific payments alleged were made before or on polling day, therefore, the petition was properly filed within 21 days in accordance with subsection 57 (1) of the Act.

She also submitted that in any event, the petition could not have been filed within 21 days of each alleged payment as the results of the election had not yet been declared.

Justice Viran Molisa stated in her discussions that the payments alleged in the petition were all made in the period up to and including the polling date. In the circumstance, subsection 57 (2) does not apply and the Strike-Out application was not made out.

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