Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Dr Faith BYisrael has again defended Watson Duke’s decision to contest the August 10 general election, despite pending criminal charges against him.
Duke, the PDP’s political leader, is contesting the Tobago East seat.
“Mr Duke is innocent and the Constitution of TT says that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty,” she told Newsday Tobago on Tuesday.
“Mr Duke was allowed to contest the last THA (Tobago House of Assembly) elections according to all TT laws and he is again allowed to contest this election.”
BYisrael was responding to women's rights activist group Womantra which questioned why there are candidates contesting the general election who are alleged to have committed offences against women.
In a post on its Facebook page on Saturday, the group said: “We have witnessed the nomination of a candidate currently before the courts on charges of rape and sexual assault.”
The group also alleged an interim protection order had been granted against another candidate. It also complained about serious online allegations involving sexual offences being levelled against another candidate.
Womantra, in the post, also urged the police to take all allegations made against political officials or aspiring representatives seriously and to begin investigations promptly.
BYisrael said Form No 39 (Election Rule Eight) of the Representation of the People Act, Ch 2:01, is clear on the criteria for nomination of a candidate.
Part Six, she said, states a candidate can be nominated once they are “not under sentence of death imposed by me by a court in any part of the Commonwealth.”
BYisrael noted under part seven a candidate can be nominated if they are “not serving a sentence of imprisonment exceeding 12 months imposed on me by a court in any part of the Commonwealth or substituted by competent authority for some other sentence imposed on me by such a court….”
She added, part nine states that a candidate seeking nomination is “not disqualified for membership of the House of Representatives by virtue of any law of Parliament by reason of my having been convicted of any offence relating to elections.”
PDP’s Tobago West candidate Tashia Grace Burris did not wish to comment on Womantra's post.