GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 20, CMC – The Court of Appeal Saturday said it would hand down a ruling on Monday on a motion filed by a private citizen seeking a series of orders to stop the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from moving ahead with the declaration of the results from the disputed March 2 regional and general elections.
Eslyn David is also seeking to prevent the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, from providing a report as requested by the GECOM chairperson, retired justice Claudette Singh that could pave the way for the official announcement of the election results.
“We will consider the case and give our decision on Monday at half past one. Monday the 22nd June at 1.30 pm (local time),” Justice Dawn Gregory after nearly four hours of arguments from lawyers.
The main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) said that it won the elections based on the national recount of votes that ended on June 9. But the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has said that the polls were filled with irregularities and anomalies and wants it annulled.
David has named Lowenfield, Singh, GECOM and the Attorney General Basil Williams as respondents.
David has mounted her challenge before the appellate court pursuant to Article 177 (4) of the Constitution, which says that that court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a President in so far as that question depends upon the qualification of any person for election or the interpretation of the Constitution, and any decision of that Court.
In her affidavit, David who said she lives in the capital, Georgetown said that “during the recount, the Guyana Elections Commission were written Letters by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change, Election Agent, Mr. Joseph Harmon in which he pointed out numerous discrepancies and anomalies which impacted on the credibility of the Elections”.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Counsel John Jeremie,, leading a battery of lawyers from Guyana and Trinidad, said what his client is asking the Court of Appeal “is to determine the powers of the Court in so far as those powers are derived from the Constitution.
“The Court has the sole power, it does not share that power…it has the sole power as far as the President is concerned,” he said, arguing “I am asking the Court to exercise its sole power in respect of the (election) of the president.
“We say the question to this Court is whether or not is what vote in the Constitution means and is a question of interpreting the Constitution(and)…whether more votes means more valid votes as it relates not to anybody else, to the president and that your honours is a function which is entirely and only law”.
But Trinidadian Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, who is representing the PPP/C’s Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali and its general secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, said under the Guyana Constitution “you can challenge the validity of an election, it does not specific an election to the National Assembly or the presidency.
Mendes argued that “if you can challenge the whole election under (the articles of the Consti8tution) because of the fact when you vote, you vote for the list and the president, if an election is invalidated, then the president’s election is also invalidated.”
Mendes, whose arguments in the main were supported by other attorney’s on behalf of other opposition political parties including A New and United Guyana (ANUG), said that the petitioner had been in a haste to file the matter and should have waited the outcome of the elections and then file an election petition.
“What the applicant has to do is await the election of the president, which only occurs after a declaration from the chairman of the Commission. That has not yet occurred,” Mendes said, adding we have to await the election before the jurisdiction of the court can be entertained”.
Mendes insisted that the motion now “ought not to be entertained at all.
He dismissed the arguments that the election is invalid, saying “all they have been speaking about at great lengths, (are) irregularities” and that no evidence had been presented.
Mendes said that the challenge to the election of the president as well as the list ought to be heard by a High Court in the form of an election petition, saying “it is plain and obvious that the question falls squarely in the jurisdiction of the High Court”
Mendes said that there were a number of authorities, including the Trinidadp-0based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is Guyana’s High Court, that have agreed on the argument regarding when the election petitions should be filed.
He said GECOM had also considered the alleged irregularities and came to the conclusion that it had no jurisdiction to examine or r4e-examine witnesses and that this was a matter for the courts to decide.
“Not that GECOM ignored it. What they said we don’t have the capacity to examine it and determine that persons were in the country or not,” he said in reference to allegations that votes had been cast in the names of people out of the country.
Mendes said that the arguments before the Court of Appeal were just further attempts at frustrating GECOM from declaring the election results.
“This is causing further delays. Let it come to an end,” he told the judges, adding “dismiss this application summarily. They must allow the election to be completed”.
In her affidavit, the GECOM chairperson noted that “the Commission cannot arrogate onto itself a jurisdiction to determine the credibility an election,” and that the court should not be asked to act in vain.
“Even if the court grants the orders sought, what is the next position? Can this court direct GECOM what to decide? Can this court order GECOM to hold a fresh election? Are these orders even sought? The short answer is no since this is not an election court,” Justice Singh said in her affidavit. – CMC