Guyana’s Chief Justice Rules house-to-house registration constitutional

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The High Court has declared there’s nothing unconstitutional about the ongoing house-to-house registration that the Guyana Elections Commission – GECOM – says is necessary to have a clean voters list ahead of polls that have become due following the passage of a no-confidence motion against the government.

But Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire who handed down that ruling in a challenge filed by Christopher Ram, says the exercise is not necessary to validate the register of electors, and GECOM should consider other options, including a period of claims and objections.

Through his attorney Anil Nandlall, Ram had asked the court to put an end to the house-to-house registration and to also name September 18, 2019, as the date for general and regional elections. That’s the date the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) believes is the deadline for elections – three months after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) validated the December 2018 passage of the no-confidence motion against the coalition government.

The constitution requires that elections be held within 90 days of the passage of a no-confidence motion, but the outcome of the vote was challenged by the court and was only confirmed by the CCJ, Guyana’s highest appeal court, on June 18.

In her ruling, the Chief Justice declared too that her court, like the CCJ, will not be interfering with matters outside its jurisdiction to name a date for elections.

George-Wiltshire said the language of the CCJ could not be clearer. She said the highest appellate court refrained from setting a date or period for the holding of elections and that the lower court will also follow suit.

“It is not within the jurisdiction of the court to do so. To do so, will be to disregard the rule of law, and act contrary to the dictates of the Constitution, which the court is duty-bound to uphold,” she said in her ruling.

The CCJ, she reminded, had emphasized this in its consequential order judgement, stating that Article 106 of the Constitution invested in the Head of State, the National Assembly and implicitly GECOM to address matters relating to the elections.

She said the court cannot set a date for elections since Guyana’s Constitution also makes provision for the National Assembly to meet and collectively agree on an extension to a date for elections. That has not yet been exhausted.

Attorney General Basil Williams deemed the ruling as a victory for the Guyanese people.

Attorney General Basil Williams

“We hope now that GECOM – an independent body, would now be in a position to proceed to make themselves ready by delivering a credible list so that we could have credible elections in the shortest possible time,” he said.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire