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GUYANA | Opposition breached judicial traditions on elections AG tells OAS

Attorney General Mr. Basil Williams, SC Attorney General Mr. Basil Williams, SC
GEORGETOWN, July 22, 2020 - Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams has told the OAS, that the prolonged delay in the declaration of the March 2 general and regional elections began when the opposition PPP breached an age-old judicial tradition of not approaching the courts before an official declaration of election results.

The AG appeared alongside Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Karen Cummings yesterday, representing the government at an online meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, where Guyana’s political situation was addressed.

The AG told the council that the history of Guyana’s laws and judicial system entails that once there is an election, the court would not entertain any application before the declaration of the results.

However, following some contention with the Region Four declaration in March, the PPP approached the High Court which quashed the first declaration and directed the Returning Officer on how to continue the process, albeit allowing him to use his discretion.

“On this occasion, there was contention in one of the electoral districts. The only Statement of Polls that matters is the Guyana Elections Commission. That is what the legislation says,” he told the council.

In that regard, the AG said the PPP should have approached the court after the declaration by the elections body, as is mandated by law.

“The recourse to the court is in breach of the tradition and was started by the PPP. We always felt that if you were to enter into such a course, you would never know when the elections would be declared and it has come to pass,” he relayed.

After more than three months of litigations by party contestants and a national vote recount by the Guyana Elections Commissions (GECOM), the court was once again approached in June for its interpretation of the Constitution regarding the elections.

The Court of Appeal interpreted Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution in tandem with Order No. 60 of 2020 or the National Recount Order and advised the commission to be so guided when determining the results of the elections.

However, although Article 177 (4) of the Constitution speaks to the finality of the Appeal Court’s decision on any matter under that section, the PPP approached the CCJ for recourse.

“The first approach to the CCJ was not made by us, it was made by the opposition. They were dissatisfied by the decision of the Court of Appeal and so they sought recourse at the apex court. We do not have a problem with that. It is better we have that type of resolution in Guyana than to have the opposite as we see all across the world,” the AG stated.

The AG said Guyana remains a peaceful nation trying to mould its peoples into one. He reminded of the stance taken by His Excellency President David Granger to abide by the decisions of GECOM, the courts and the edicts of the Constitution. However, there has been no declarations by GECOM.

He reminded too of the decisions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on July 8, none of which stated that the result of the recount must be used by GECOM. He showed that the recount figures were derived from the Order made by GECOM to “assuage” the contestants, however, the CCJ said that it was in tension with the Constitution.

“The CCJ has said it could not create a different electoral regime and we have to, therefore, determine that having nullified that order, it meant we had to go back to the ten declarations,” the AG told the OAS.

In the latest court challenge, A notice of appeal has been filed in the case Misenga Jones vs the Guyana Elections Commission following the ruling of Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George on Monday.

The appeal filed by Attorney-at-law Mayo Robertson on behalf of his client Misenga Jones is looking to overturn the ruling handed down by the Chief Justice.

In her ruling, the Chief Justice first determined that the Court had jurisdiction to hear the matter and consequently ruled that the national recount was valid and the results garnered from it would supersede the March 13 Declarations by the Returning Officers.

Jones in her appeal is contending that the Chief Justice incorrectly interpreted the terms and provisions of Order 60 of 2020 when she found that the order valid, which led to her failing to find that the commission had overstepped its constitutional authority when it implemented Order 60 of 2020.

Jones also maintains that the Chief Justice in her decision also erred when she did not find that the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Commission had acted outside of their statutory powers.

The appeal is seeking several declarations among them is that Order 60 of 2020 and any results obtained from it and invalid; that the Chief Election Officer’s’ final report must be based the March 13 declarations of the  Returning Officers and that the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission cannot direct the CEO on the subject matter of his final report

Jones is represented by Senior Counsel John Jeremie, Roysdale Forde, Keith Scotland, Mayo Robertson and Rondelle Keller. The case management hearing is due to be at 3pm on Wednesday.

  • Countries: Guyana

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