GECOM ready to move process forward

─ following CJ ruling on region four SOPs

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George today ruled that the process used by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for the tabulation and declaration of results for district four last Thursday, was not in compliance with Section 84 (01) of the Representation of the People’s Act, Chapter 1:03 and is therefore nullified.

The Chief Justice also ruled that GECOM can only have a final declaration on the completion of the process.

Senior Counsel (SC) Neil Boston said GECOM is prepared to continue the process, which was interrupted last week by the members of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

The Chief Justice today summated that the region four Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo, did not comply with section 84:01 of the Act before he made the official declaration of the results for the region on Thursday last.

She ordered that the process be commenced no later than 11 am on Thursday, March 12.

But SC Boston said it was the PPP which gave way to that breach, and that the elections body is ready to comply with the consequential order.

“We are going back to GECOM and we are going to get the process moving and then another declaration will be made. There is no such thing as verification. It is a question of you calling out of your statement of poll and what they have tallied with what you have. Verification is used loosely,” the attorney told the media moments after the ruling.

SC Boston said he was satisfied that he was able to make the commission’s case.

He maintained that the elections body did not act unreasonably at any point. “I have no doubt that they were acting reasonably in the process and they will continue to act reasonably in the process,” he maintained.

In her Consequential Orders, however, the Chief Justice pointed out that the onus is on the Returning Officer to decide by which method he will complete the tabulation of the Statements of Poll (SOPs), as mandated by law.

“It would be for the Returning Officer and or the Deputy Returning Officer to decide whether, in the interest of transparency, the addition process should be restarted or continued from where it was left off. It will also be for these functionaries to determine the best method of tabulating the SOPs. It cannot be for the persons present to indicate how this should be conducted.”

It would be up to the Returning Officer also, to decide how he would deal with any objections or challenges raised by any of the persons entitled to be present. According to Justice George, such decision making is not within the remit of any other person.

“Otherwise, they would be usurping the powers and responsibility of Returning Officer pursuant to section 84 of the Act,” she analysed.

“At the end of the day, the only official documents that the RO can consider are the SOPs that were transmitted to him by the Presiding Officers.” The Chief Justice said any Statements of Poll in the possession of any agents, political parties or others will not be used.

Persons who are entitled to be present during the tabulation process can make their objections within the parameters of Chapter 1:03 of the Act. If there is dissatisfaction with the addition, and the declaration, section 84.2 of the Act, provides for a general or limited recount before the official declaration of the result.

The case against GECOM was brought by the opposition PPP last Thursday, when an injunction was filed, preventing the District Returning Officer from making a public declaration of the votes cast in Region Four, following the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.