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High Court scraps Region Four votes declaration, orders GECOM to conduct recount

Region/District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo (left) and Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield at the High Court on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Wednesday ordered the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to restart or continue the verification of the results for Region Four from Thursday at 11 am.

She issued that and several other orders because she found that GECOM’s Returning Officer for Region Four had caused “substantial non-compliance” with the Representation of the People Act concerning the addition of all of the Statements of Poll for District Four and whether that process was conducted in the presence of persons entitled to have been present.”

Based on court papers filed in this case, of the 879 polling stations, 421 were verified, leaving a 458 to be tabulated.

She also said it would be the Returning Officer or the Deputy Returning Officer to determine whether to restart or continue the process and “it will also be their decision to decide on what is the best method for tabulating the Statements of Poll so I want to emphasise that everybody who thinks they can have an input or a say, it is not their statutory duty.”

GECOM’s Attorney-at-Law, Neil Boston said the elections management agency would not be appealing her decision and that it was ready to commence the process.

Following are the substantive orders:

  • The declaration made on the 5th March, 2020 by the Returning Officer for District Four of the total votes cast for District Four was unlawful and in breach of Section 84(1) of the Representation of the People Act Chapter 103 and is now void and of no effect
  • The declaration made on the 5th March, 2020 by the Returning Officer for District Four of the votes for District Four is hereby vacated and set aside
  • Any act done pursuant to the said declaration is hereby deemed null and void and of no effect
  • Subject to my admonition as regards the role of persons entitled to be present and attend, the Returning Officer and/or the Deputy Returning Officer must comply with Section 84(1) in ascertaining the total votes cast in favour of each list and the public declaration of votes so recorded for each list of candidates
  • The Guyana Elections Commission cannot lawfully declare the results of March 2nd, 2020 general elections until the Returning Officer or Deputy Returning Officer for District Four complies with and/or ensures compliance with the provisions of Section 84(1) of Chapter 103. Therefore, the injunction is granted restraining the Returning Officer of District Four from any manner whatsoever from declaring the votes recorded for each list of candidates for District Four before complying with or ensuring the compliance with the process set out in Section 84 of Chapter 103. That injunction is now made final
  • Injunction granted restraining GECOM from declaring the total number of valid votes cast for each political party until the Returning Officer or Deputy Returning Officer for District Four complies with or ensures compliance with Section 84 of Chapter 103 is also hereby made final
  • The mandatory injunction that refers to the compliance with the letter and spirit of Section 84 is hereby discharged.

The urgency of the situation resulted in the following consequential orders:

  • The Returning Officer or Deputy Returning Officer for District Four must commence compliance with Section 84 (1) of the Representation of the People Act Chapter 103 no later than 11 hours on Thursday, March 12, 2020
  • That in the interest of transparency and taking into consideration, the Returning Officer and the Deputy Returning Officer for District Four is to decide whether the process of determining whether the total votes cast in favour of each list in the District by adding up the votes in favour of the list and in accordance with the Statements of Poll should be restarted or continued
  • It is also ordered that this order is to be served to Counsel for the parties and is to deemed as service to the parties.

Chief Justice George-Wiltshire stressed that her decision does not decide the result of or the validity of the result for District Four regionally or nationally. “This decision is concerned with the conduct of the Returning Officer in compliance” with the Representation of the People Act.

People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall failed in his effort to get the Chief Justice to include in her orders that provision should be made for party representatives to be accommodated at the tabulation process. “I do not understand how that can be reflected in the order,” she said.

Boston, for GECOM, said the electoral agency would comply with the law because “that will lead to the confusion that brought these proceedings.”