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GECOM to put brake on recount after Court of Appeal decision on recount case

Justice of Appeal, Dawn Gregory.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will not activate plans for a recount of votes cast in last month’s general and regional elections until the Court of Appeal on Sunday rules on whether the High Court can legally hear a judicial review of the commission’s decision.

Attorney-at-Law, Kim Kyte for GECOM Chairperson Retired Justice Claudette Singh told the court that GECOM Friday morning decided on a recount but would not go ahead until after the court’s decision on Sunday.

Appellate Court Judge, Dawn Gregory told lawyers representing the appellant, A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) candidate Ulita Moore, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Representative of the List, Bharrat Jagdeo and GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh that the decision would be handed down on Sunday at 11am.

Moore’s lawyer, Roysdale Forde, failed to secure an order prohibiting GECOM from deciding on a recount. After Singh’s lawyer, Kim Kyte said she was caught by surprise by the application as she was only learning of it for the first time in the courtroom, Kyte said she would need to consult with the GECOM Chairperson before taking a position before the court.

Justice Gregory earlier in the proceedings tasked Kyte with informing the court of any developments that might render the Court of Appeal’s merely academic and nugatory.

Another of Moore’s lawyer, Keith Scotland of Trinidad and Tobago, argued that the need for a judicial review should be considered. “We have more than crossed the threshold of important and weighty issues,” he said. He added that the Full Court erred in law as evidence had been led to show that there was exceptional circumstance. “It was not whether the court was plainly wrong or erred in law. The Full Court just got it plainly wrong,” he said, adding that the Court has jurisdiction to hear the constitutional point.

Attorney-at-Law, Dr. Francis Alexis of Grenada, who is also part of Moore’s high-priced battery of lawyers, said his client’s case was not about affecting the election results. He contended that that rule of law requires that the GECOM Chairperson and Returning Officer be treated equally.

Dr Alexis said the constitutional role of the GECOM Chairperson and GECOM had been about to be usurped by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) high-level team which should have supervised the recount. On that point Justice Gregory queried of Dr Alexis if the Court finds that it has jurisdiction to supervise GECOM, whether it should be to merely point it to Article 162 of the Constitution that its role is to independently manage elections or to direct the commission to perform its functions under Article 177. In that regard, Dr Alexis pointed to a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision in Professor Eddy Ventose’s right to vote in Barbados’ elections.

Jagdeo’s lawyer, Mendes, said under Guyana’s constitution it is an election court, through an elections petition, that hears issues concerning unlawful acts and omissions instead of being dealt with at an intermediate stage. He has continued to rely on Section 140 of the Representation of the People Act that prohibits any court from enquiring into deliberations and decisions of the commission.

The other judges hearing the appeal are High Court Judge, Brassington Reynolds and Appellate Judge, Rishi Persaud.