Guyana Full Court dismisses injunctions blocking ballot recount of votes in March 2 elections

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

GEORGETOWN, Guyana  – The Full Court, on Tuesday, upheld an appeal that sought to dismiss a ruling, by High Court judge, Justice Franklin Holder, that he had jurisdiction to hear an injunction that prevented the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from declaring the results of the March 2 general election.

The Full Court, comprising Acting Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire and Justice Nareshwar Harnanan, handed down the ruling.

Last Friday, Justice Holder ruled that the Court had jurisdiction to hear the matter, throwing out arguments, by attorneys for the leader of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo, who argued that the Court did not have jurisdiction.

Justice Holder also dismissed a request, by for GECOM, to provide all of the statements of poll to the Court, adding that the matter of discovery is best suited for an election petition.

As a result of his ruling, the High Court was due to begin hearing arguments on Mon day , in the substantive case that was filed by Ulita Moore, a candidate with the ruling coalition — A Partnership for National Unity plus Alliance For Change (APNU+ AFC) — who had sought the Court’s intervention to block a recount of all votes, as part of an agreement, reached by President David Granger and the Opposition Leader.

Bharrat Jagdeo

While the case was filed by the APNU+AFC candidate in her private capacity, the PPP/C and a number of other parties had joined the proceedings as interested parties.

Attorneys for Jagdeo and three political parties, which contested the March 2 elections, argued that the law is clear that the Court cannot inquire into the deliberations of the Commission.

In the ruling, the Full Court said that it found that the judicial review “has had no effect of facilitating the efficient competition of the March 2 regional and general election.

‘This is a clear demonstration of one type of mischief, which the legislation intended to address, by providing a plain and simple language that these challenges should be addressed by election petitions,” Justice Wiltshire-George said.

She said that the entire scale of the legislative matrix, “points, significantly, to the fact (that) the election process must, swiftly and efficiently, take its course, so as to enable the election results to be declared”.

“As a consequence, the appeal is allowed, the order of Justice Holder that he has jurisdiction to hear the first respondent’s application, is vacated.

“As a further consequence…the interim injunction, granted by Justice Holder, then stands discharged. It follows that the substantive…application stands dismissed, on the grounds that the High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain it,” she said, in a lengthy ruling.

David Granger

But Moore’s attorney, Mayo Robinson, has indicated to the Court that he will be filing an appeal in the Appellate Court.

Attorney, Anil Nandlall,, who is one of the lawyers representing the PPP/C and Jagdeo, later told reporters that the High Court’s ruling paves the way for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to be able to re-send an independent team, to oversee the recounting of the ballots cast in the elections.

Moore’s application had cited the unconstitutionality of such action, and the CARICOM independent delegation that was supposed to have overseen the recount, left Guyana.

“That arrangement, as far as I am aware, is still in place. The President has spoken, the President has said that the only reason why he can’t comply with that process or adhere to that process, was because Ulitia Moore came to the court and injuncted him.

“Now that the injunction has been lifted, that excuse is no longer available to the President, and we will expect that the President will consummate his commitment that he gave to CARICOM, and will allow for the recount to take place, under the supervision of CARICOM and the international observers,” Nandlall said.

But he told reporters that the Chairperson of GECOM, retired justice Claudette Singh “in her written submissions, said with or without CARICOM, GECOM is prepared and committed to do that recounting, in accordance with law; and she emphasised that will dissipate any doubt and will be done in a manner that will inspire public confidence”.

Nandlall, who served as attorney general in the previous PPP/C administration, said that since “we don’t trust the Secretariat (GECOM) and we don’t have any reason to trust the secretariat, the more observers available, obviously will allay, not only our suspicion but the suspicion of the country”.