High Court throws out second opposition election petition

Last Updated on Monday, 26 April 2021, 12:40 by Denis Chabrol

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Monday dismissed the pro-opposition election petition against the 2020 March, 2020 general elections, saying that  the Recount Order 60 and the relevant laws that were used were constitutional and legal.

The Chief Justice has to now issue the relevant consequential order and certificate.

She found that Section 22 of the Election Laws Amendment Act  was properly used to activate the recount procedures of the Representation of the People Act.

The Chief Justice noted that the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to address any difficulties, as there had been in the March 2, 2020 elections, rather than merely leaving them to election officials and ultimately an election petition knowing fully well that there had been difficulties.

“This was done lawfully by GECOM via order. 60, enabling it to issue instructions and take action is appeared necessary and expedient to resolve the controversies as part of this responsibility  o complete the elections process by delivering the results.

There was no breach of violation or non-compliance by GECOM with the Constitution or the law covering elections such as to make the election of sham, or a travesty as claimed by the petitioners,” she said.

The Chief Justice also ordered separately that the Statements of Poll and Statements of Recount continue to remain in the custody of the High Court pending any appeal or order by any other court.

With Parliament having already been dissolved and could not have offered a negative resolution, she said the legal framework empowers GECOM to deal with current difficulties at the time rather than in the future. “I do not accept the submission that the power to modify the law can only  be futuristic because this would not affect difficulties that would have arisen, a situation that must have occurred in the past. The provision authorises action to remove difficulty. Therefore, it is meant for difficulties that that have already occurred to be addressed,” she said.

Justice George-Wiltshire further reasoned that , while GECOM could no doubt seek to issue an order in contemplation of difficulties that might arise in the future, she said would be illogical for Parliament to mean that GECOM could not have addressed difficulties that had already occurred. “I am fortified in this view because Section 22 allows GECOM to issue during a period of three months after the election date,” she said.

Noting that the lawyers for the petitioner had stated that the petition was mainly about the legality and constitutionality Order 60, Section 22 of the Election Laws Amendment Act and the Representation of the People Act, the Chief Justice said the petitioner did not present any evidence to prove that there were electoral irregularities that would have affected the outcome of the elections.

The High Court has already dismissed a petition that had sought to challenge the validity of the votes cast on a number of grounds because the representative of the list of the opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) did not sign the correct date on the relevant documents.

That decision is being appealed.