Guyana Court of Appeal rules that CARICOM-supervised recount is illegal

Last Updated on Sunday, 5 April 2020, 17:32 by Writer

Justice of Appeal, Dawn Gregory.

The Guyana Court of Appeal on Sunday ruled that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) cannot farm out its responsibilities such as the management and and supervision of general elections to anyone else.

President of the Court, Justice Dawn Gregory said GECOM’s decision to act on an agreement by President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to supervise the recount was illegal. “Any agreement in which supervision is removed from GECOM will be unlawful,” she said. The Court relied on a GECOM press statement that spoke of the team’s intention to “supervise” the counting process.

The Guyana Court of Appeal, however, declined to send back the case to High Court Judge, Franklin Holder, citing the urgency and national importance of the electoral matters.

The Court of Appeal, at the request of appellant, Ulita Moore’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde has agreed to receive written submissions from lawyers for both parties including Jagdeo before issuing its consequential orders.

Justice Brassington Reynolds

The seven-member GECOM last week Friday reaffirmed its decision taken last month to go ahead with the national recount of all votes cast in the March 2, 2020 general elections.

Justice Gregory highlighted that GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh told the High Court that the commission was entitled to take such actions to ensure fairness and impartiality.

Touching specifically on Moore’s request for the High Court to conduct a judicial review of GECOM’s decision to conduct a recount and set aside the declarations made by the 10 District Returning Officers, she said, “if a party feels that GECOM is acting outside of its authority, then the court has jurisdiction.” She also said that once GECOM stays within the realm of its jurisdiction, it would not become the subject of judicial inquiry.

Left to right: High Court Judge, Dawn Gregory; Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire and then High Court Judge, Rishi Persaud.

Disagreeing with the Full Court’s decision to have disallowed an appeal of Justice Holder’s decision that he had had jurisdiction to hear the judicial review and that such concerns should form part of an elections petition, Justice Gregory said that “any arrangement to relinquish that supervision or authority will be unlawful” and “GECOM must be the body to supervise” and manage the conduct of the elections including a recount or any other aspect.

GECOM Commissioner, Vincent Alexander last week said the recount would be done under rules to be set by the commission in accordance with its constitutional responsibilities rather than the provisions for counting as stated in the Representation of the People Act.

Justice Brassington Reynolds also ruled that the High Court has jurisdiction. Justice Rishi Persaud agreed fully with the Full Court, composed of Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire and High Court Judge, Nareshwar Harnanan, that the High Court could not have legally heard the judicial review.