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CCJ to rule on GECOM Chair appointment

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2019, 16:42 by Writer

Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Retired Justice James Patterson.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will next week Tuesday hand down its decision on whether President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of James Patterson to head the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was constitutional.

“The first judgment will determine whether the appointment, or the process followed in the appointment, of Guyana’s Elections Commission Chairman breached the Constitution,” the CCJ said.

The Trinidad-based regional court will on that same day also deliver its judgements on the consolidated appeals on whether last December’s no-confidence motion was validly passed.

Legal experts say if the CCJ finds that the motion was validly passed, the court may also issue consequential orders concerning the timeframe within which general elections should be held.

The Guyana Court of Appeal, which had ruled that the motion needed an absolute majority of 34 of the 65 parliamentary votes to be validly passed, has also pointed out that if that had been the case, elections would have had to be held within three months. The motion secured 33 votes after then government parliamentarian, Charrandass Persaud, had voted for the opposition-sponsored motion that the PPP had hoped would have triggered elections by March, 2019.

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, through his lawyer Douglas Mendes, has already indicated that he would ask the CCJ to consider allowing general elections to be held under the GECOM chairmanship of Patterson even if the court finds that his appointment was unconstitutional.

If Jagdeo does not get his way, analysts believe that the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman by the President can take several months.

Patterson and the three pro-government elections commissioners have already agreed to conduct house-to-house registration to extract a fresh voters’ list in time for elections to be possibly held in November, 2019.

The National Assembly has already approved GYD$134 million for GECOM to conduct the polls.

The High Court is yet to decide on the constitutionality of house-to-house registration on the grounds by a United Kingdom-based retiree that she would be disenfranchised because her name would be taken off the existing voters’ list.

A legal opinion by GECOM’s Legal Adviser, Attorney-at-Law Excellence Dazzell that the voters’ list, which expired on April 30, needs to be extended, has been rebuffed by the pro-government elections commissioners.

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June 2019