Chief Justice rules Court has Supervisory Jurisdiction over GECOM

Respondents to file affidavits for March 10 hearing

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, March 8, 2020

Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George today ruled that her court has supervisory jurisdiction over matters involving the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and can intervene at this time to hear the case.

GECOM had petitioned the High Court, seeking to have it lift an injunction brought by the People’s Progressive Party last Thursday, which prevented the elections body from making the final declaration of the results of the 2020 General and Regional Elections until the verification of the votes from Region Four have been completed.

While the matters raised by the PPP are relevant only to an elections petition, and that GECOM remains an independent constitutional body, the CJ noted that the court can make a supervisory jurisdiction in some aspects, the injunction, being one of them.

She said without interfering, obstructing or delaying the elections process, judicial intervention is available in this regard.

With the ruling today, the injunction remains and the case will be heard again on Tuesday, March 10, where the two sides will file affidavits.

Attorney Neil Boston said he does not agree with the ruling as the issue now is whether the Returning Officer for District Number four, had acted in accordance with Section 84 by verifying the votes in the presence of relevant personnel.

Attorney Roysdale Forde who is assisting in arguments said his team will comply with the order and will review all options available at this stage.

“We remain resolute in our position that the declaration of the Returning Officer is a valid declaration made and we will return to court,”.

He opined that the PPP, through their claim that the RO did not comply with the law, failed to request a recount the day following. He said the PPP made an application which was rejected by the RO since request did not follow the law.

According to Forde, the case relied on by the CJ was completely different from this matter. In that matter, brought by now PPP member Joseph Hamilton was filed after the declaration of the 2001 General and Regional Elections. The attorney said the case against GECOM is currently at a different stage in the process. In this case, he said the election is still ongoing.

Attorney Boston had argued on Saturday that any party was free to file an elections petition only after an official declaration of the results was made by the elections body.  He had also cited the case of N. P Punaswammy vs the Returning Officer in the state of Madras in 1952 and V. Sreekumar vs The Chief Electoral Officer on 24 March 2009 in Kerala, with similar grounds.

Among the local cases referred to was Gladys Petrie and others vs the Attorney General others in 1968 and more recently Christopher Ram vs AG in the infamous Charandass Persaud’s case where Ram was seeking to force the hands of GECOM to begin preparations for elections.

The law makes provision for the official declaration of results by GECOM, the latest 15 days after the holding of elections. Attorney Boston said he is confident that the CJ will rule before that time expires.

GECOM’ is being represented by attorneys-at-law, Senior Counsel Neil Boston, Roysdale Forde and Robin Hunte.

The PPP’s is being represented Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, along with attorneys Anil Nandlall and Sanjeev Datadin.