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Attorney General, Opposition Leader at odds over High Court’s dismissal of pro-APNU+AFC election petition

Last Updated on Monday, 26 April 2021, 16:26 by Denis Chabrol

Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall

The Attorney General Anil Nandlall welcomed the High Court’s decision to throw out a pro-opposition election petition but Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon castigated the court, suggesting that the ruling was politically motivated to favour the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

“This is a clear attempt to protect the installed PPP regime from scrutiny and from being removed from government where they have no right being,” said Mr. Harmon.

He said A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) would appeal the decision by Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, possibly right up to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s final appellate court.

Expressing his disappointment with the High Court’s dismissal of the petition that was largely based on the legality of Order 60, Section 22 of the Election Laws Amendment Act, the Representation of the People Act and Guyana’s Constitution, the Opposition Leader said there was clear evidence of electoral fraud through voter impersonation, missing poll documents, missing ballots, missing oaths of identity and a whole host of irregularities, discrepancies and wholesale fraud.

But the Chief Justice said no evidence had been led by the petitioners to prove that there had been irregularities, even as she recalled that the major plank of argument was on strictly law.

Joseph Harmon.

“Today when we expected that the legal basis upon which the PPP regime was installed would have been swept away and the laws of Guyana being stringently and robustly upheld, we have been disappointed again by the decision of our courts. This decision is not about justice, this is not about the people of Guyana, this is not about what is right, this is not about democracy, this is not about you. It is about protecting the status quo – no matter how corrupt that status quo is.

But the Attorney General- noting that when APNU+AFC won a case in the High Court last week that the two Parliamentary Secretaries were unconstitutionally in the National Assembly as technocrats because they are elected PPP candidates- had not frowned on the court. “The Chief Justice was good then! Today, the Chief Justice has dismissed their petition. The Chief Justice is now a political appointee… so they are going to continue to tarnish the image and reputation of our judges and the institution called the judiciary simply because they cannot win a case which has no merit,” he said.

Mr. Nandlall accused the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led coalition of misleading its supporters.

“They are continuing to put into people’s minds false confidence, misconceived expectations and promising people things that they cannot deliver,” said Mr. Nandlall. He said the High Court’s decision confirmed that the will  of the people was reflected in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections and that the law was complied with.

An estimated 20 persons broke off from a group of coalition supporters outside the High Court and went protesting on the Georgetown commercial thoroughfare of Regent Street, forcing police to respond quickly.  A number of stores hastily shut their doors.  An amputee, who was among the group, was reportedly arrested.

The Opposition Leader, a lawyer by profession, gave no legal views about the High Court’s decision, but the Attorney General highlighted that he was satisfied that the Chief Justice stated that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is legally empowered to address difficulties in an election process. “It also confirmed, in particular, that the recount process which was embarked upon by GECOM was a lawful one and that GECOM has the powers, in circumstances where there are difficulties, to that which is necessary and expedient to bring a satisfactory conclusion to the electoral process,” he said.