Opposition’s case to stop Local Govt polls over boundaries too late; billions already spent- Attorney General

Last Updated on Friday, 26 May 2023, 16:14 by Denis Chabrol

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has asked the High Court to be made a party to an opposition case that seeks to postpone the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections (LGE) by challenging 37 constituency boundaries in 19 local government areas, saying that lawsuit was filed too late and that already government has spent GY$2.9 billion to prepare for the polls.

The case was filed by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Chief Scrutineer, Carol Smith Joseph on May 2, 2023 and Mr Nandlall’s application to intervene in the case was filed on May 22, 2023.  But the Attorney General notes that Ms Joseph filed her case five months after the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) decided on the boundaries and one month before the LGEs are due. “The delay in bringing this claim could easily have been avoided, is inordinate, and ought not to be countenanced by a court of law,” he said. 

In his court papers seen by Demerara Waves Online News, Mr Nandlall said he should have been made a party to the case from the inception. He noted that the LGEs, due since December 2021, are a matter of public importance “as they allow citizens to exercise their franchise to elect persons to represent their interests. He states that it inimical to public policy and against the public interest for  Ms Smith-Joseph, at this belated hour, seek to prevent the  holding of elections “when a mere exercise of good conscience could have been utilised for a much more urgent filing, were the decision of the Commission as unconstitutional and unlawful as alleged.”

Ms Carol Smith-Joseph

Ms Smith-Joseph wants the High Court to quash 37 boundaries in 19 Local Authority areas because their demarcation is unconstitutional and are to the disadvantage of APNU, but the Attorney General says if the High Court does so the electorate will be deprived of the right and benefit to choose their representatives without further delay.  “This would be adverse to a democratic system of government by which each person is entitled to vote, and by which all members of the relevant community are entitled to vote and to exercise that right to be governed by representatives chosen democratically, whether or not individually,” he states.

Attorney General Nandlall says already government has spent more than GY$2.9 billion on preparing for the elections to 70 neighbourhood councils and 10 municipal councils; candidates have been nominated, polling stations have been identified and prepared; polling agents appointed; personnel were being trained and the public was being sensitised through the media.

Mr Nandlall says even if he is joined as a party to the case, its hearing and determination will not delay the case further. “Additionally, an order by this Honourable Court granting permission to the Attorney General of Guyana to intervene and be added as a party in these proceedings will not unduly delay or prejudice the rights of any of the parties to these proceedings,” he says. 

In her court papers, the APNU Chief Scrutineer says she will contend that should the Local Government Election be conducted by the GECOM with the use of these reconfigured Constituencies in the Local Authority Areas the prospects of success of the APNU will be severely prejudiced,”  according to the application.

Through Attorney-at-Law Lyndon Amsterdam, she informs the High Court that the boundaries that were produced and approved by a majority of GECOM Commissioners were the same that had been proposed by Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall.