Acting Chief Justice to Rule on Election Petitions Early Next Year

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Dec 1, CMC – Acting Chief Justice, Roxane George Tuesday said she will hand down a ruling on January 18 next year, on whether or not to dismiss election petitions challenging the outcome of the disputed March 2 regional and general elections in Guyana.

“I will fix 1.30 pm on January 18 to give the decision,” she said, adding “it has been an enriching experience”.

On Monday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall and the Trinidad-based Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes arguing on behalf of the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C), said that one of the two petitions was not properly served by lawyers representing the opposition coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change (APNU) and as a result should be thrown out on the basis of its defective service.

But Trinidad-based former attorney general and Senior Counsel, John Jeremie, urged the court to examine the evidence before it and not rely on inferences as made by the attorneys for the respondents.

He said the fourth respondent, Bharrat Jagdeo, who is also the country’s Vice President, “alleges that the acknowledgement of service reflects one thing…but that the body of the affidavit reflects another…”

But Jeremie argues that the affidavit is the evidence and that the acknowledgement of service is not evidence.

He told the court that the acknowledgement of notice is not what the law requires to be served, adding “what the law requires…is an affidavit of service, the contents of which…must state two things, the manner and time of service.

“The rule requires that as soon as possible after service, you must file in the Registry an affidavit of the time and manner of such service. We say that on the un-contradicted evidence which is before Your Lady that has been complied with”.

But he acknowledged that is not to say that there is perfection given that with 13 respondents, “my friends are asking you to draw inferences, I say sometimes the truth is the most obvious inference which is required to be drawn.

“In any event, there is no evidence that anything but the truth, they haven’t put in evidence to say that this did not occur. The only evidence as per service is that which is given for and on behalf of the petitioners. So to maintain, as the fourth respondent alleges that the acknowledgement of service reflects the truth, but the body of the body of the affidavit reflects something else is, we say, not the correct approach.

“What is right and correct is that you treat the evidence given under oath which is the evidence that is contained in the statutory document, the affidavit of service, duly filed in these proceedings as the evidence of service,” said Jeremie.

Jeremie told the Acting Chief Justice that with regards to the second respondent, David Granger, the former president, that there had been some inference of fraud regarding his service from the petitioners had to be dismissed.

“We know that we plead fraud by particularising it specifically and by giving positive evidence. You can’t throw around inferences from the bar table and ask the court to infer wrong doing,” Jeremie said, adding that the “evidence is…the service was effected on the 18th of September and that the clerical error that is disposed in the supplemental affidavit” explained the situation.

“The discrepancies and the confusion….which have been explained in all cases, you should not take that evidence as it is given. You should not apply the rule with respect to presumption of regularity that there is some evidence about this having been done and it is on those who allege fraud and criminal wrong doing to do so boldly and then to prove it,” Jeremie added.

Attorney Mayo Robertson, who is also representing the petitioners, argued that the issue should be whether or not the persons had been served and that the return of service is not contradictory.

“It was a team effort,” he said, making reference to the raid by the United States Marines in 2011 to kill Osama Bin laden I Pakistan and the subsequent announcement by individual members as to who really shot and killed him.

“Your Honour we are not going to say that Bin Laden was not dead and he was not killed by US Marine Seals, it is the same with the first respondent. They handed him the document. One may say in return I handed it, another may say I handed it, but that doesn’t change the fact he was served and that the team served him that’s all their need to establish,” he said.

“The burden is on the respondents, they are alleging something close to fraud,” he added.

But Mendes in his response said the respondent “do not need to allege fraud in order to make that point,” while Nandlall said “all we have done…is to examine the records they have put to the court and to identify blatant discrepancies, inconsistencies, unrealibilites, contradictions…

“We are entitled to do that and I say with the greatest respect to Mr. Jeremie, he has not put forward satisfactory explanations or any explanation at all that is meritorious in relation to the contentions that we have raised”.

Nandlall said that the subsequent affidavits filed by the petitioners were filed only after the respondents had showed the inconsistencies.

“We are not alleging fraud, we are not alleging perjury we are simply making comments as we are entitled to do based upon the evidence that they have presented,” Nandlall said.