Coalition firm on valid votes only for declaration
– says Appeal Court failed to make judgement “sound in law”
DPI Guyana, Thursday, July 30, 2020
Following the ruling of the Court of Appeal today, the APNU+AFC Coalition is maintaining that still expects the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to utilise the use of valid votes only to determine the outcome of the March 2 Elections.
The Appeal Court dismissed the Appeal filed by private citizen Misenga Jones, essentially upholding the ruling of the High Court, which allows GECOM to use the raw numbers only from the national vote recount to make a declaration for the president.
The Appellate Court said any challenge to Order 60 or the National Recount Order must be taken up with the elections petition court.
But Coalition Co-campaign manager Joseph Harmon said while he did not expect much out of the Court of Appeal as constituted, he was nonetheless disappointed that the Court did not use the opportunity at this juncture in the history of Guyana, to make a judgment sound in law.
Harmon affirmed that the Guyanese people will be examining in a more “meticulous way” how their justice system functions.
“The APNU+AFC Coalition is committed to the rule of law and respect for decisions of our Court. We iterate that when the matter goes to GECOM that only valid votes will be counted in the final declaration made by the Chairman of GECOM.”
He maintained the Coalition’s firm position that fraudulent votes cannot be the basis for a final declaration to be made.
Misenga Jones approached the Court of Appeal on July 21, a day after her application to the High Court to prevent GECOM from using the fraudulent votes from the national recount to make a final declaration on the March 2 elections.
She had also challenged the decision of GECOM’s Chair Justice (ret’d), Claudette Singh, to set aside the declarations from the Returning Officers (RO’s) from the ten electoral districts, which was used in the final report by the Chief Elections Officer (CEO).
Jones, thorough Trinidad-based Senior Counsel John Jeremie, had laid down over 20 grounds on which she said the High Court erred in its July 20 judgement.
She argued that Section 22 of the Elections Law Amendment Act which was relied on for the crafting of the Order 60 of 2020 or the National Recount Order is unconstitutional, in contravention of Article 170 of the Constitution, as it empowered the commission to craft a law when it remains a non-legislative body.
The Appeal Court ruled today that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to consider the issue surrounding Section 22 of the ELA and that such challenges should be heard in an election petition.
Jones had also asked the Appellate Court to strike down the ruling of the Chief Justice which said GECOM’s Chair Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh and or the commission did not act outside of their constitutional and statutory powers. The Appellate Court, however, upheld that ruling.
Justice Singh on three occasions had directed CEO Keith Lowenfield to submit his report based on the numbers emanating from national recount and in compliance with Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act and Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution.
The CEO had however expressed concerns that the request was unconstitutional.
Jones’ case was led by Senior Counsel Jeremie and included Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, Rondel Keller and instructed by Mayo Robertson. Attorney General Basil Williams, SC had appeared on his own behalf in association with Attorney Maxwell Edwards.
In the meantime, the Coalition says citizens should remain calm as the electoral process which is now back with the elections body, takes its course.
“We remain calm, focussed and positive that despite all that is happening, that we can still get out of the Chairman of GECOM, a declaration that based on valid and not fraudulent votes,” Harmon said.
The commission is expected to meet tomorrow to make its decision.
“I remain optimistic and I encourage all Guyanese to remain optimistic. The president has made a statement this morning basically saying that he will act on the final declaration to be made by the Chairman of GECOM. What we are saying is that in making that final declaration, the Chairman has to take into consideration only valid votes,” Harmon underscored.