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Attorney Saphier Husain wants Court to order Local Govt Minister to call elections

Attorney-at-Law, Saphier Husain Subedar

Constitutional Lawyer and politician, Saphier Husain Subedar on Tuesday moved to secure a High Court Order to command Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker to call long-overdue Local Government Elections (LGE).

The Leader of the little-known National Independent Party (NIP) hopes that the Court will order the Minister to hold the local polls any time between November 1 and December 31, 2014.

He wants the court to find that the continued delay of LGE since 1994 violates his constitutionally guaranteed human rights and those of all Guyanese  “by inhuman and degrading treatment, causing psychological torture to the citizens of Guyana” as well as his rights to form or belong to a political party and vote and/or contest periodical elections.

Husain Subedar’s decision to seek legal redress comes at a time when the main opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)has intensified agitation for the holding of LGE due since 1997.

Major Western Nations- United States, Britain, Canada – as well as the European Union (EU) have in recent months been publicly piling the pressure on the Donald Ramotar administration to call the local elections. 

While the opposition-controlled National Assembly had approved a Bill for the polls to be held by August 1, 2014, government and the three ruling People’s Progressive Party’s-nominated Election Commissioners have maintained that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was unprepared for such elections in the six towns and 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils.

But the NIP Leader also wants the High Court to ask GECOM to show cause why an Order of Writ of Mandamus should not be issued to command that elections management authority to conduct the LGE by secret ballot.  Back on July 22, 2014, he had written GECOM Chairman, Steve Surujbally expressing his intention to contest the LGE and  General and Regional Elections.

He contends that GECOM is only required to hold the LGE on the date set by the Minister rather than cause/advise the deferral of those polls for more than 16 years. “The minister in conspiracy with the Elections Commission for Guyana has acted in excess of 16 years in connivance and collusion, with ulterior motives and taking irrelevant matters in consideration and failed to take relevant matters in consideration, acted unreasonable and dictatorial in bad faith in excess of their constitutional jurisdiction to usurp the power of the electorate by refusing to appoint a date for Local Government Election on a regular and periodical basis since 1994,” he states.

Husain-Subedar’s most recent legal success was getting the High Court to scrap the need for Guyanese to first acquire new birth certificates when applying for new passports.  The Home Affairs Ministry had argued that that system had been aimed at avoiding identity theft.

He wants the High Court to give the Local Government Minister and GECOM 14 days each to  file an Affidavit each in Answer.

Saying that he is “affected by the unconstitutional delay/postponement of the LGE, the Attorney-at-Law states that all previous postponements  of the polls, which should have been held every three years since 1994, were “unconstitutional, inconsistent and repugnant” to Guyana’s Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections. He highlights that the Constitution states that “Local Government is a vital aspect of democracy…”, that Democracy is defined to include free, fair, regular and periodic elections in accordance with the UN Declaration on of Human Rights and that the UN Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections states that “elections must be periodic, genuine, organized in accordance with universal suffrage and by secret ballot. He said that Declaration further states that “in any State the authority of the Government can only derive from the will of the people as expressed in free and fair elections held at regular intervals on the basis of universal equal and secret suffrage.”

Pointing out that the National Assembly on January 16, 2014 had passed an amendment to the Local Authorities (Election) Act to postpone the polls to August 1, 2014 but it was not signed into law by the President and so there is no law protecting the Local Authorities at this time and that they are illegal office-holders. “All acts and things done or purported to be done by the Municipalities and Local Democratic Organs Authorities (NDC and Municipalities) since December 1, 2013 were/ are illegal, unconstitutional and void since their continuance in office is/not in consequence of the provisions of an order… and no existing law protecting the said acts or things done,” he adds.