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Chief Justice remarks CCJ indicates elections by Sept 18 or parliamentary extension

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire on Wednesday said the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) indicated that elections must be held by September 18 or another date if Parliament grants an extension.

“The Honourable Chief Justice (ag) stated that the consequential orders of the Caribbean Court of Justice indicate that elections be held by September 18, 2019, or such longer period as the National Assembly determines,” according to a statement issued by the Supreme Court of Judicature.

Political commentator, Christopher Ram’s lawyer, Anil Nandlall, said Tuesday that the Chief Justice had said elections must be held by September 18, but he failed to mention that she had also said that there could also be a parliamentary extension.

The CCJ had declined to name a specific elections date, saying that was the constitutional preserve of the President, Opposition Leader, Parliament and to some extent the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo are yet to reach agreement on a new GECOM Chairman.

Jagdeo has repeatedly stated that his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would not be lending support to the government for the required two-thirds parliamentary approval for an extension of the elections timeframe and the life of the caretaker administration.

The Chief Justice confirmed that she rejected Ram’s request for an order to stop the Guyana Elections Commission’s house-to-house registration exercise. Nandlall said the Chief Justice cited a lack of evidence by Ram to back his case that the exercise would result in a shift in the elections deadline.

Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield told the media on Tuesday that the existing voters’ list, which expired on April 30, could be refreshed and subjected to a claims and objections period for use to conduct a free and fair general and regional administrative council elections.

Lowenfield declined to comment on claims by President Granger and the governing coalition that the expired list is bloated by about 200,000 names and has other defects. The coalition has also argued that without house-too-house registration, thousands of youths would be unable to vote. But, the PPP said those who have not registered or have changed their residences could make amends through a claims and objections period.

The Chief Justice said the claim for an order compelling the Chief Elections Officer or the Commissioner of National Registration to take all necessary steps and actions to hold General and Regional Elections on or before September 18 has not been withdrawn.

Saying that another Fixed Date Application (FDA) has not been filed, she said Ram did not ask to resubmit the FDA. The applicant, however, requested and was given permission to file a supplementary affidavit in support of the FDA by 16:15hrs on July 23, to be served by 10:00 hrs on July 24, the Supreme Court added.

The hearing of the FDA stands adjourned to August 2nd.

The Chief Justice earlier this year had ruled that the December 21, 2018 no-confidence motion had been validly passed by 33 to 32 parliamentary votes and that the President and Cabinet had stood resigned and the President and government had remained in office to hold elections by March 21.

In a long-running legal battle, the Granger administration got a reprieve when the Guyana Court of Appeal struck down Justice George-Wiltshire’s decision on the single ground that the required absolute majority for passing a no-confidence motion was 34 instead of 33.

The CCJ earlier this month overturned the Guyana Court of Appeal’s decision, effectively saying that Chief Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling was valid.