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CCJ ready to sit to hear Guyana elections case if appealed

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 July 2020, 15:34 by Denis Chabrol

By Samuel Sukhnandan

With just one more day left before the Guyana Court of Appeal hands down its decision on whether the recounted votes should be used to declare a winner of the March 2020 elections, there are concerns that the matter could be stalled because the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will be heading into recess.

But according to CCJ’s Acting Senior Public Education and Communications Officer Semone Moore, if the matter is appealed to the CCJ, because of the national importance of this case, the court could make special arrangements to hear it and deliver a timely judgement.

The CCJ will take a three-month vacation starting on July 31, 2020, until October 5, 2020, although its e-filing system will remain open.

Moore told News Talk Radio 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online, “Section 3.3 of the CCJ Appellate Jurisdiction Rules states that during the vacation, in urgent cases a party may apply for a matter to be heard during the vacation. During the vacation, the Court shall only hear such matters as it determines to be urgent or to require prompt attention or to deliver a judgment.”

According to her, the CCJ has always demonstrated its commitment to hearing and ruling on matters of national importance with urgency. “We will continue to do so for any such matter which comes before the Court,” the CCJ communication officer added.

The Trinidad-based CCJ, Guyana’s apex court, has already heard several matters relating to Guyana’s political situation. The first set of cases had to do with the appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) and a no-confidence vote passed in December 2018 in the National Assembly.

This was followed by the “valid votes” case where it quashed a Guyana Court of Appeal decision that “more votes cast” means “more valid votes cast”.

In that judgment delivered on July 8, the CCJ ruled that the Chief Election Officer (CEO) decision to invalidate over 100,000 votes was invalid. The Court also decided that, as a consequence, the June 23, 2020 report of the Chief Election Officer was also invalid. The CCJ’s judgment was a unanimous one to which all the sitting judges contributed.

LThere are concerns that regardless of whichever way the Court of Appeal rules, the matter will be appealed by the dissatisfied party.

Court of Appeal judges Dawn Gregory-Barnes and Rishi Persaud along with High Court Judge Priya Sewnarine-Beharry listened to oral arguments on Saturday July 25. The court will rule at 11:00 hrs Thursday.