GECOM CEO had authority to act out of necessity – Lawyer argues

DPI, Guyana, Friday, August 2, 2019

In the absence of a chairman of the elections body, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield has the authority to act in the interest of the commission.
Attorney-at-Law Stanley Marcus argued this in the High Court today in defence of Lowenfield.

The CEO is listed as one of the respondents in an application, filed by Attorney Christopher Ram, to block the ongoing House-to-House Registration by GECOM. While the ‘Fixed Date Application’ was thrown out by Chief Justice Roxane George on July 23, the substantive matter challenging the constitutionality of the registration process continued today.

During his submission to the court, Attorney Marcus explained that where there was no chairperson of the commission, the next most senior official would be the Chief Elections Officer. In such a case, he said Lowenfield, as the CEO, was qualified to decide on the conduct of House-to-House registration. “If you can sue him knowing there is no chairman, then why do you do that? Because he got to defend the case. The documentation served on GECOM said that if you do not take action within a certain time, a judgement in default will be given against you.”

The GECOM attorney further explained that the law allows for persons to act in ‘an instance of necessity’, “and that was necessary”.
“He was entitled to act. He is the most senior person. He is performing the House-to-House Registration, and there it is – this action is brought to stop it. The law says that if there are certain circumstances that require you to act out of necessity, then any law that affects it will have to excuse you.”

Also appearing before the acting Chief Justice, Attorney Roysdale Forde, in his submission, argued on the constitutionality of the application filed by Ram.

Ram’s attorney, Anil Nandlall, argued that the process should not happen.

In this regard, Attorney Forde explained that the removal of persons from the old list is necessary so that a new list could be created. The process to ensure the list is created is through House-to-House Registration. The attorney further explained that the law allows that after the preparation of a new list, there is a ‘Claims and Objections’ period. This period provides eligible electors, who did not register, the opportunity to gain entry to the list of electors or to update their particulars (transfers and changes). “So, persons can go and be registered and added to the list,” Forde explained.

Meanwhile, Attorney Marcus spoke to the proviso. This, he explained, caters for the expiration of the three-month period after any no-confidence motion. According to the attorney, this is no different to what the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) advised the Head of State and leader of the opposition. “The CCJ said that the functionaries must together act and set a date, under the Constitution – that is the only thing that could be done.”

The attorney opined that the framers of the Constitution of Guyana might have had the “very thing in mind,” – that there might not be elections within the stipulated three months after a no-confidence vote.