Oral arguments made in the Eslyn David vs GECOM court case
-applicant argues only valid votes must be used
-attorney’s for respondents argue only an election petition can resolve the matter
DPI, Guyana, Saturday, June 20, 2020
Only valid votes must be used by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to elect a new President. This view was maintained and argued by Trinidad and Tobago Attorney Senior Counsel (SC) John Jeremy in the Eslyn David vs GECOM on Saturday.
The case was heard before Justices Brassington Reynolds, Dawn Gregory-Barnes and Rishi Persaud in the Court of Appeal.
The oral arguments were made in the case which seeks to prevent the commission from declaring an elections result based on fraudulent votes. The applicant David is represented by Trinidad and Tobago Attorneys Senior Counsel (SC) John Jeremy and Keith Scotland along with Guyanese Attorneys Mayo Robertson and Roysdale Forde.
SC Jermey argued that GECOM cannot swear in a President with anything other than using valid votes as stated in the constitution. The constitution which is the supreme law of the land, he pointed out states that must be used to guide the decision of the court.
Citing Article 177 (2) of the constitution, he pointed out that the Chairman shall declare a President acting in accordance with advice from the Chief Elections Officer. The CEO in his report submitted to the Commission highlighted several irregularities which were discovered during the recount of votes and deemed the elections as not being credible.
The attorney stressed that the Appeal Court can determine what is a valid, free and fair vote. This is on the heels of the respondents in the case arguing that only an election petition through the elections court can deal with the matter.
The respondents were the People’s Progressive Party’s Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali, Mark France of A New and United Guyana, Mark Kanhai of the New Movement and Lennox Shuman of the Liberty and Justice Party.
The attorneys for the respondents argued that the Appellate Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear such as case; that only an Election Court can deal with the issues being brought forward by the applicant and after there has been a declaration by the Chairman of the Elections Commission. To back their argument, Article 177 (4) of the constitution was cited.
They argued that the Court only has jurisdiction to deal with matters about the election and qualifications of a President and since the current election process is not complete this case should not be brought before the court.
The respondents further argued that based on Article 177 (2b) the candidate which has more votes should be shall be deemed the elected president.
The GECOM Chairman (retd) Justice Claudette Singh was represented by Attorney Kim Kyte and in her submission argued that the Appellate Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear any case pertaining to the credibility of the elections. Attorney-at-law Kyte argued that for credibility to be determined an election petition must be filed in the High Court.
Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams SC., in his oral arguments, questioned the credibility of the March 2 Elections and votes cast on that day. He noted that during the recount process, several irregularities were unearthed. He said these must be addressed by the Elections Commission before a declaration is made.
The AG noted that the Elections Commission has exclusive responsibility for the elections and has the power under Article 162 (1b) of the constitution.
According to the AG, the Commission has thus far failed to address the issue of credibility. “If contesting parties raised allegations before they declare the results, they have the duties to address the issues,” he pointed out.
AG Williams is of the view that if the Elections Commission is to make a declaration without addressing issues raised, it would erode public confidence in the Commission.
The court case will continue on Monday, June 22, 2020, at 13:30hrs when a decision will be handed down.