The case of Jornah:
ELECTIONS 2008 is clearly underway but already ‘IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE!’ to quote the title of a very popular hit. One of the controversies that has taken place is the dropping of PBS woman incumbent Jornah Morzihim. This decision was met with confusion and unhappiness not only from . womenfolk here but also the men. Malaysia has Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, Pakistan has Benazir Bhutto, the UK has Dame Margaret Thatcher, the USA has Hilary Clinton, but which woman in Sabah now especially from the category of non-Muslims can fill the vacuum now created? Is this a step backwards for women in Sabah? Maybe we in Sabah are still a male dominated society, not in keeping with global and modern trends of women in politics? Only time will tell. What sets this event apart from that of other ‘dropped’ candidates was that according to news reports, her name was initially in the publicly announced PBS line-up and “a letter of appointment” was issued to her. Although it is the party who ultimately decides who should stand, did the letter and the announcement create any binding legal obligations? Could the political party concerned have handled this matter in a manner that would not have exposed Jornah, who is a graduate and single mother, to embarrassment? Was it fair to Jornah and women voters in Sabah because if Jornah had known earlier of the decision to drop her, she may have had the opportunity to stand on a different ticket and serve the needs of women rights in Sabah? How will women in Sabah view this issue and how will they vote come March 8, 2008? I received a letter on this issue from Sabah women and children rights activist and fellow lawyer Nilakrishna James who wrote:-
“As a voter in Sabah, I have observed with great trepidation the risks some of our leaders are prepared to take with the sentiments of the people by fielding in faces which are virtually unknown in our society. Yet despite that, perhaps such candidates have silently worked in the past few years with their respective constituencies. Ultimately, only the voters can decide whether such newcomers or old-timers deserve to represent their people and whether they are capable of dealing with the grouses and interests of their voters. I am more appalled by the risk PBS has taken in their decision to drop a confirmed and named candidate. With all due respect for the PBS party leadership, I am making this comment not against their decision per se but the overall act of dropping a candidate once named and confirmed. I find it so unethical to simply drop a person at the 11th hour after being named publicly as a candidate. This is totally humiliating for the candidate and I don’t agree with this “now you see it, now you don’t” type of political behavior. It isn’t right and it isn’t fair. As it is now there is barely 7 per cent female representation in the line-up for election. This is so far away from our target 30 pc that women in this country have been struggling so hard to achieve and it clearly isn’t right. Perhaps more efforts should have been made by each party to identify and nurture female party members for the possibility of standing as a candidate. I certainly hope that for the next few years before the next election this will be on every party’s main agenda, when hopefully we will begin to see a rise of a new, young breed of potential statesmen and stateswomen with fresh ideas for the way we should progress economically and globally.”
The story of Alan Riddell
Anyway the incident reminded me of the Canadian case of Alan Riddell, a bilingual labour relations lawyer in Ottawa, Canada. In March 2004, Riddell was approached by the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) to run as its candidate in the riding of Ottawa South. He handily defeated others for the 2004 CPC nomination. In the ensuing election, he ran against two nationally know names: David McGuinty, the younger brother of Ontario Liberal Party Premier, and Monia Mazigh, of the New Democratic Party (NDP), best known for her courage as the wife of wrongfully imprisoned Syrian- Canadian Maher Arar. Although the riding was traditionally Liberal, it was thought that Riddell’s background and dynamism, together with voter backlash against Liberal broken promises, gave him a good chance of winning. By the middle of the campaign, Riddell began to lead McGuinty and Mazigh in the polls, and many believed he would score an upset victory over the Liberals. In the final days of the campaign, however, voters across Ontario shifted away from the Conservatives, thereby ensuring reelection of the Liberal government. In addition, only a few days prior to the vote, the Ottawa Sun published a damaging front-page story about Riddell, that was later retracted as inaccurate. Despite this erroneous news story, and the last minute shift in voter support, Riddell finished the election with more that 20,600 votes, the highest number ever recorded by a Conservative candidate in the riding’s history, thereby finishing a relatively close second to McGuinty. In May 2005, when it appeared that the Liberal government was about to be defeated and another election called, Riddell was recruited to run in Ottawa South a second time. Conservative officials initially blocked Riddell’s re-nomination as the Party’s candidate. Riddell’s disqualification caused a public outcry from Riddell’s supporters across Ottawa, and was quickly set aside by the Conservative Party’s National Arbitration.Committee, which issued a binding directive to Party officials permitting him to be the party’s candidate in Ottawa South a second time. However three days prior to the 2006 election Riddell stepped aside as the Party’s candidate to enable Allan Cutler to run in his stead in Ottawa South. Party officials issued a Press release thanking Riddell for his gesture and confirming that the Party “looked forward to having him run as its candidate in future elections”. To compensate Riddell for relinquishing the nomination to Cutler, in a move designed to help them win the national campaign, they undertook to repay him his campaign expenses, pursuant to an agreement which Party Executive Director Michael Donison described in writing as legally “binding”. Although Elections Canada later ruled the agreement to be legal, when news of the Party’s agreement surfaced in the press, senior Party officials, including Party Leader Stephen Harper, publicly denied its existence. After the Conservative victory in the election, Conservative Party officials refused to honour the agreement, and Riddell was eventually forced to apply to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a Court Order that it be implemented. On January 11, 2007, after a two-day court hearing, Judge Denis Power of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a decision confirming that the Party’s agreement with Riddell was legally binding, and ordering it to immediately pay Riddell. The Judge ruled that when Riddell had stepped aside for Cutler, he had been “the preferred choice of the clear majority” and that “the evidence, taken as whole, clearly establishes that an agreement was reached”. He concluded that “the crux of the agreement was that Mr Riddell, the leading contender for the nomination, agreed to voluntarily step aside in favour of Allan Cutler in exchange for which he was to receive some financial compensation for expenses incurred by him in seeking the nomination”,
Email evidence in Court ruling JUSTICE POWER:- It is appropriate at this point in these reasons to set out, in detail, the relevant emails between Mr Riddell and CPC or their representatives. However, by way of background. it is also important to note that by the fall of 2005 Mr. Riddell was the preferred choice of a clear majority of the members of the Ottawa South CPC riding for the nomination.
(1) From: Michael Donison: Dear Alan: This is to confirm I have left a message both on your cell phone and have conveyed to your representative Luc to the effect that the Conservative Party of Canada is shortly going to issue a Press Release in which it will be confirmed that on November 22, 2005 the National Candidate Selection Committee of the National Council of the Party disallowed your candidacy as a nomination contestant for the Ottawa South Conservative Electoral District Association. I went on to expressly state that the only way the issuance of that Press Release could be prevented is if you immediately and no later than 3:30 pm today execute and deliver the Irrevocable Decision and Direction document and properly witnessed as presented to you by Paul Lepsoe last evening.
Yours truly, Michael D Donison
(2) From Alan Ridell Dear Mr Mike Donison, Thank you for our meeting yesterday. As communicated to you last night, I am prepared to withdraw from the nomination race in Ottawa South, on the following conditions: 1. if that is what the Leader wishes me to do; 2. if the Party does the honourable thing by picking up the receiptable nomination expenses incurred to date by my Nomination Campaign in the two nomination campaigns in which I have been involved this year (which I estimate to be in the amount of approximately $50,000, but which would be subject to verification by yourself); and 3. if the Party agrees to have the issue of the legal costs incurred by my lawyers in my two successful appeals arbitrated before a mutually agreeable Arbitrator or Arbitration Panel within the next few weeks, along the lines suggested by Mr Reynolds, with the details of the arbitration to be worked out by our respective lawyers this afternoon or tomorrow. Separately from this, I wish to confirm the following: 1. that I believe Mr Cutler to be a good candidate for Ottawa South; 2. that I would be pleased to work for him if and when he becomes our Party’s officially nominated Candidate, in whatever capacity you or he would like me to serve, and that I will do my utmost to persuade my friends and supporters in Ottawa South to do likewise. I want to make it very clear that my offer to work for Mr Cutler during the upcoming election campaign is in no way conditional upon the Party’s acceptance of my proposal to resolve the matter of my nomination expenses and legal costs. I want the Party to win Ottawa South in the upcoming campaign. I look forward to campaigning vigorously for the Party and to helping to ensure a Conservative victory in Ottawa South. Yours very truly, Alan Riddell
(3) From Michael Donison: Dear Mr. Riddell: This is to confirm receipt of your e-mail letter dated on November 24, 2005 at 4:32 pm. Please consider this letter in reply by way of formal counter-offer to the offer contained in that letter: (1) That you will immediately provide a written statement to me as Executive Director of the Conservative Party of Canada that the Party can then use publicly that you are unconditionally withdrawing as nomination contestant and as a candidate for the next federal general election and that you will not subsequently seek such status. That written statement must be executed and delivered by you and duly witnessed simultaneously upon your acceptance of this counter-offer and therefore prior to finalization of any other documentation relating to any agreement that will result. That written statement has to be forwarded to the undersigned in the same form and at the same time as the requirement below for delivery of your acceptance of this counteroffer; (2) That the process of any Arbitration will be agreed upon by the parties without any pre-determined conditions (including any that may have been set by Mr John Reynolds, MP, the specifics of which have never been communicated to the undersigned) except that there will be no obligation on the part of either party to take any steps until after the completion of the impending federal general election; (3) That paragraph 1 of your offer is to be deleted as it is not necessary; (4) All other terms and conditions as contained in your offer are acceptable. This counter-offer is open for acceptance with such acceptance to be communicated to the undersigned in writing at this e-mail address no later than 11:00am tomorrow (November 25, 2005) Michael D Donison
(4) From: Luc E. Barrick on behalf of Alan Riddell: Dear Mr Donison: This is to confirm receipt of your e-mail letter dated November 24, 2005 at 10:54 pm. Please consider this letter as Mr Alan Riddell’s acceptance of your counteroffer on the following sole condition, which is a result of the statements attributed to the party inferring that Mr Riddelll was disqualified:
That the Conservative Party of Canada shall issue today a press release stating the following: (1) that Mr Alan Riddell is not being disqualified as a Tory candidate for the nomination in Ottawa-South but is withdrawing voluntarily as a candidate for the nomination in Ottawa-South; (2) that the Conservative Party of Canada appreciates Mr Riddell’s significant efforts on its behalf in Ottawa-South over the past year; (3) that the Conservative Party of Canada looks forward to having him run as a candidate in subsequent elections. Please immediately confirm to me by telephone and e-mail your acceptance of this condition, so that we may provide you with the written statement referred to in par. 1 of your counter-offer. Time is of the essence given that many reporters are calling the Alan Riddell Team regarding the Ottawa Sun article entitled “Whistleblower to be acclaimed”, and we are going to have to respond if we do not hear from you by 11:30AM. Yours very truly, Luc E Barrick
(5) From: Mike Donison. Dear Mr Barrick: Please consider this e-mail reply an acceptance on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada of Mr Riddell’s acceptance of the counter- offer with the sole condition Mr Riddell requires. The Press Release that will be issued by the Party will in its wording be identical to the wording you provided in the acceptance of the counter-offer. The Press Release will say nothing more nor less than those exact words. Michael D Donison “Women of Sabah, the ball is now at your feet come March 8. Selamat mengundi.” For more news go to our new website @ borneotoday. com