Guyana Elections: Legal challenge to House-to-House could end up with the CCJ – PNCR

 Bharrat Jagdeo

Christopher Ram

Winston Jordan

A Conservatory Order has been requested by Attorney-at-law, Christopher Ram, to halt the process of House-to-House registration, which started on Saturday July 20, 2019. But so far, Chief Justice Roxane George has refused to grant the order, indicating that there is not enough evidence to do so.   

During a PNCR press conference yesterday at the party’s Congress Place headquarters, Winston Jordan, who serves in Government as Minister of Finance, was asked whether Government would respect the decision of the High Court, if a Conservatory Order is granted, halting the exercise.

“We are a law-abiding Government.” Jordan responded. “All the parties within the Coalition are law-abiding. If the Court issues a Conservatory Order or whatever order it is, we will obey any and all instructions of the Court.”

However, that doesn’t mean that the decision will not be challenged.

Jordan continued, “You must appreciate if one court rules, there is another court, and then there is a final court. You appreciate that.”

He said that when the CCJ rules, only then will there be no other court. The rulings of each Court would have to be respected, he said, “bearing in mind that either party… can take the case to the next step to reach the final court.”

This could mean months of litigation, likened unto the multiple appeals that followed the No Confidence Motion. That had passed on December 21, 2018, and received its final judgment from the Caribbean Court of Justice on June 18, 2019 – six months later.

The political opposition, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), contends that House-to-House Registration will cause General and Regional Elections to be held later than September 18, 2019 – three months past the ruling of the CCJ on the No Confidence Motion.

On Thursday last, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had provided members of the media with copies of the work plan of GECOM’s Secretariat, which revealed that the execution of that plan is set to conclude several months into 2020.

Furthermore, Commissioner Sase Gunraj told Kaieteur News on Thursday that the period listed on the work plan is a ‘conservative estimate’.

Reiterating the PPP’s position in a press conference yesterday, Jagdeo said, “Clearly, that timeline, to any sane person, would be unacceptable, given the ruling of the CCJ and the position of the Chief Justice when she herself said, in a statement, that elections should be held by the 18th of September, or if there is an extension of the National Assembly, given by the two-thirds vote in the National Assembly.”

On the matter of an extension being granted, Attorney General Basil Williams had recently said that he hopes that the Opposition would have a change of heart, and vote to grant the extension in the National Assembly.

He had posited that, with such an extension, all stakeholders, including GECOM and the political Opposition, would have to hammer out a suitable period of extension, which would satisfy the Opposition and give GECOM sufficient time to prepare to conduct credible elections.

But Jagdeo, who has said time and time again that the PPP would not grant such an extension, did not break from that pledge.

On Thursday last, he stated” “I have personally spoken to all our MPs and not a single one will vote for an extension.”
He went on to add that the Order for House to House was gazetted secretly on June 11, 2019, but that it’s been overriden by the decision of the CCJ.

“More importantly, the activity outlined in that Order started only on the 20th of July after the CCJ had ruled on the 12th of July. So to start House to House registration, that must be contemptuous of the Court. It has to be an illegal order.”

The PPP contends that claims and objections would be enough to refresh the list, as also stated by GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, and that such a process would allow GECOM to facilitate free and fair elections before September 18, 2019.

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