GECOM carrying out its constitutional function – AG tells Chief Justice
─ substantive matter challenging House-to-House Registration
─ Court to rule on August 14
DPI, Guyana, Monday, August 5, 2019
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is carrying out its constitutionally mandated function and should be allowed to complete the process.
Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Basil Williams SC, leading arguments in the substantive matter challenging the constitutionality of the House-to-House Registration, has contended that GECOM is currently carrying out a function set out by law.
Appearing before acting Chief Justice Roxane George, the Attorney General reasoned that the ongoing registration process has to be done for the elections body to eventually compile an Official List of Electors (OLE).
“The Constitution provided for GECOM to compile the register under Article 159 (5) and that is what GECOM has embarked upon. And the method of doing that is by House-to-House [Registration] visits, and that is lawful,” the Attorney General said on Monday morning. He said to prevent GECOM from compiling a register, is unconstitutional.
Accountant Christopher Ram, through his lawyer Anil Nandlall, is challenging the legality of GECOM’s House-to-House Registration, which the election body maintained, is essential for the establishment of a National Register of Registrants (NRR) and an OLE.
Through his lawyer today, Ram has also asked the court to set a timeframe for elections. Ram’s request was made even though the highest appellate court – the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was clear that the CCJ should not set its hand in the country’s political functions.
“The CCJ said it will not set deadlines or timelines for the constitutional actors. They expect that they have their constitutional responsibilities and they would execute them with integrity, but they never gave a timeline and they refused to name a date, which is within the province of the Presidency,” AG Williams had explained to journalists following the hearing.
According to the Attorney General, GECOM has a policy for the renewal of the National Register of Registrants every ten years. The last such exercise was completed in 2008.
“In furtherance of the legislation in 2008, the commission embarked on the creation of a new database. As a result, a new NRR was created. That is why in 2018 another order was made for House-to-House [Registration] to be conducted for a new list because the process should be carried out every 10 years,” AG Williams told the Court.
He said the elections body should be allowed to carry out the registration process since it is only a matter of weeks before it is completed.
From its last count, GECOM has reported that over 100,000 Guyanese have so far been registered, with almost $1 Billion expended. The Attorney General said such expenditure should not go to waste.
Monday at the court also saw Solicitor General; Attorney Nigel Hawke submitting that there is a paradox to the challenge of the House-to-House Registration exercise. According to Hawke, the challenge is clearly to the exercise being carried out at this time, as against the order by the commission to carry out the exercise.
“When you take a glance at the supplemental affidavit, there is no problem with House-to-House [Registration], but with the exercise being carried out at this time. There seems to be a direct challenge to the exercise, but there is no challenge to the order for the exercise.”
He said the applicant is more concerned about the registration being conducted during a period the political opposition is hoping elections could be held.
“They have not itemised, in the relief neither the affidavit. There is no factual matrix connected to what is sought as against establishing where the breach lies,” the Solicitor General said.
After listening to the arguments, the acting Chief Justice said she would hand down her ruling on Wednesday, August 14.