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High Court says can hear case against GECOM; agrees elections report must be scrapped

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire on Sunday ruled that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear related cases involving several now “absolute” orders against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that results for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) must not be declared unless they are verified using the same process as the other nine regions have.

Sunday’s decision effectively puts a brake on the possible meeting of GECOM to ratify a report by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, paving the way for the possible swearing in of David Granger as President for a second consecutive term.

George-Wiltshire also agreed with People’s Progressive Party (PPP) lawyer, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes that the report by the Chief Elections Officer on the March, 2020 general elections for the seven-member elections commission be scrapped. “We are asking that the report be revoked and not play any part in the proceedings,” Mendes, a respected Trinidad and Tobago lawyer, asked the court.

After GECOM’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Neil Boston produced a written statement by Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward that GECOM intends to abide by the law and procedures and the Chief Elections Officer’s email to the Commission Chairman, Claudette Singh was not meant to be contemptuous of the extant court proceedings, the Chief Justice successfully obtained his assurance that GECOM would abide by the court’s decisions. “We’ll hold you to that Mr Boston,” the Chief Justice told the lawyer.

In explaining her decision that the High Court has jurisdiction, George-Wiltshire said the court can exercise supervisory jurisdiction outside the election petition.

Speaking with reporters outside the courtroom Boston said he and GECOM were “disappointed” at the Chief Justice’s decision.

With the jurisdiction issue out of the way, lawyers for both sides are now required to file additional court papers in time for another sitting of the court next Tuesday afternoon.

Less than two hours before the High Court sitting, GECOM sought to assure that it was not contemptuous of the court proceedings because the Chief Elections Officer wrote the GECOM Chairman Claudette Singh telling her he was finished with the results and that she could summon a meeting of the seven-member Commission.

“On Thursday, 5th March, 2020, a mandatory injunction was granted against the Commission and CEO which as a consequence impeded the finalization of the Commission’s work. The recent action of the Chief Election Officer indicating to the Chairperson and Commissioners that his report in the relation to the final declaration was completed was not intended to disregard the Court proceedings but rather apprising the Chairperson of the completion of the document and that she may convene a meeting at her convenience. In relation to this matter, no meeting was scheduled. GECOM remains resolute in the fulfillment of its constitutional and statutory obligation,” GECOM said.