GECOM Chair Opts Out of CCJ Hearing

GECOM Chair, Justice Claudette Singh

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 29, CMC – The chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Justice Claudette Singh, has said she will not “actively participate” in the appeal filed by the two senior members of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in relation to a Court of Appeal ruling regarding the disputed March 2 regional and general election.

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s highest court, is due to sit on Wednesday to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal filed by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, and Irfaan Ali, the presidential candidate of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).

The two filed a Notice of Motion before the CCJ for several reliefs, including an interpretation of the words ‘more votes are cast’ in Article 177(2)(b) of the Constitution of Guyana.

The Court of Appeal in its decision ordered that the words are to be interpreted as meaning ‘more valid votes are cast’. The Court also ordered the decision be stayed for three days. The applicants, who were added as respondents before the Court of Appeal, claim that the decision was wrong for many reasons, including that the Court of Appeal did not have the jurisdiction to hear and determine the Notice of Motion.

In a letter written to the CCJ, through her attorney Kim Kyte-Thomas, the GECOM chairperson informed that she would no longer be participating in the hearing.

“Please bring to the attention of the Honourable Judges that on further consideration, we do not wish to actively participate in the Appeal. In the circumstances, we do not wish to make any submissions,” the letter, signed by Kyte-John and sent to the Registrar, noted.

During the case management conference last week, GECOM and the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield did not make any appearance during the session where the CCJ outlined the measures to be undertaken by all parties in filing submissions and counter submissions no later than 9.00 am (local time) on Tuesday.

CCJ President, Justice Adria Saunders said all the lawyers for all the parties including A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) and the United Republic Party (URP), who have been added into the matter, will be allowed to make oral submissions on Wednesday.

Private citizen, Eslyn David, mounted her challenge before the appellate court pursuant to Article 177 (4) of the Constitution, which states “the Court of Appeal shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a President in so far as the question depends upon the qualification of any person for election or the interpretation of this Constitution….”

By a majority ruling of 2-1, the Court of Appeal did not grant all the remedies that David had sought in her motion and also agreed to a stay of three days on the judgement.