Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 May 2023, 13:05 by Denis Chabrol
The High Court on Tuesday ruled that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Chief Scrutineer, Carol Smith-Joseph failed to provide hard and credible evidence the voters list is flawed and could not be used to extract the separate voters list for the originally scheduled local government elections.
“It does appear that relying on unsubstantiated and inadmissible evidence, the applicant is inviting this court by a side-wind to impugn the OLE (Original List of Electors) that was utilised for the 2020 National and Regional Elections. The invitation is unequivocally rejected,” Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire said in her decision.
In dismissing the case, the Court said Ms Smith-Joseph has to pay $250,000 in costs by June 30, 2023
She said there was nothing in the evidence to prove that the register of voters for the then scheduled March 13, 2023 local government elections was not credible in any way. “Litigants must appreciate that courts rely on evidence, not unsubstantiated opinions or conjecture,” the judge said.
On the applicant’s request that biometrics be used to identify voters, the judge said that was a matter for the Parliament to address.
The Chief Justice disagreed with the APNU Chief Scrutineer that the use of a section of the electoral law would result in the compilation and use of a list of electors that was not resident or ordinarily resident in Local Authority Areas and constituencies therein or because it deprives the electorate from making claims and objections for the local government elections.
Justice George-Wiltshire said no evidence was provided top show that the OLE for the March 2020 general and regional elections and the local government’s Registers of Voters contain the names of persons who were not resident . “Further, there was no evidence in this application that the process of the compilation of the OLE was flawed,” the Chief Justice said.
She also flayed the APNU Chief Scrutineer for producing “an extremely poorly reproduced copy for the most part” that failed to prove that the register of voters for the Onverwagt-Golden Grove constituency in the Union-Naarstigheid Local Authority Area had more than 100 persons listed who are not resident or ordinarily resident there. There are 612 Local Authority Areas for 70 neighbourhood councils and 10 towns.
The Chief Justice noted that while the applicant stated that the document was generated on November 25, 2022, the exhibit was undated and overall could not be admitted as evidence. “The document has unsubstantiated jottings on it that speak to persons being deceased or not living in the area. This is inadmissible evidence that cannot be relied on by the court. Even if the evidence was admissible, it’s content was unreliable as there is no evidence of the source of the information mentioned in the jottings,” the Chief Justice said.
In that regard, the Judge said Ms Smith-Joseph submitted unsubstantiated assertion that more than 100 deceased persons in one Local Authority Area alone is proof that the system for removing deceased persons who might have died in Guyana is not working at all or effectively. “This is an unsupported opinion expressed on behalf of the applicant as regards one constituency which she seeks to have the court apply nationally,” the Chief Justice added.
Describing Smith-Joseph’s application as “unmeritorious” and the only benefit is to note that the piecemeal legislation must be harmonised.