Guyana’s Chief Justice denies application to halt house to house registration

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – An effort to stop the house to house registration being conducted by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to compile a new voters list has failed.

But Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, who last Monday denied the application for an injunction that was filed by attorney Christopher Ram, will rule early next month, after hearing from both sides in the coming 10 days, whether that will change.

Ram filed an application seeking an order that the house to house registration process be halted and preparations made for regional and general elections by September 18.

In July 12 consequential orders that followed its June 18 ruling that the no-confidence motion passed against the government on December 21, 2018 was valid, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) stressed that according to the Guyana Constitution, an election must be held “within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine”. And it said that given the legal challenges to the validity of the motion, the three-month period was on pause, and effectively only took effect following the June 18 ruling from the CCJ which is Guyana’s final appellate court.

It is on that basis that Ram and the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) are challenging the GECOM house to house registration which they say cannot be completed in time to have elections within the three-month period.

But the Chief Justice said in ruling on the application, that she was not convinced there was enough evidence that GECOM was not acting in a way to hold elections within that time frame.

She therefore gave the applicant time to present additional information to show that the registration process would prevent the polls from being held within three months.

George-Wiltshire also granted Attorney General Basil Williams, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and GECOM, who are named in Ram’s application, until July 29 to file affidavits.

Ram will then have until July 31 to reply.

All legal submissions must be made by August 2, when the Chief Justice is expected to hand down a decision.

GECOM reported that after two days of house to house registration which began last Saturday, more than 20,000 people had participated in the process.

The exercise covered communities across the 10 administrative regions of Guyana.