Guyana Elections 2020: Chief Justice to rule on March 8. 2020 on court’s jurisdiction – Region Four results count – UPDATED

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Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire will on Sunday afternoon (today March 8, 2020) rule on whether the High Court has the jurisdiction to hear an application seeking to have the tabulation of votes in Region Four at Monday’s General Elections done according to the law prior to the declaration of a final result.

If the judge finds that the court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the application, the injunction will be discharged.         

The judge made the announcement Saturday afternoon March 7, 2020 after hearing arguments by attorneys for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Chief Election Officer and the Region Four Returning Officer, and applicant Reaaz Hollader, who secured an injunction prohibiting them from making a declaration of the total count unless there is full compliance with the law.

Holladar has asked the court to restrain GECOM, either by itself, its servants and/or agents “from declaring the total number of valid votes of electors for each list of candidates” recorded in the March 2 general and regional elections “until and unless” Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo and Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield comply with and ensure “the compliance of the process set out by the provision, letter and spirit” of Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act.

The section, which specifies the process for the counting of votes, prescribes, among things, that as soon as practicable after the receipt of all the ballot boxes and the envelopes and packets delivered to him in pursuance of Section 83 (10), the Returning Officer shall, in the presence of those legally entitled to be in attendance, ascertain the total votes cast in favour of each list in the district by adding up the votes recorded in favour of the list in accordance with the statements of poll (SOPs) and thereupon publicly declare the votes for each list of candidate.

Section 84 (1) (a) of the Act adds that where an election officer for a polling district discovers a material error on the SOP from a polling station for that polling district, he shall inform the presiding officer for that polling station forthwith, and the presiding officer, if the SOP has not yet been sent to the Returning Officer shall, in the presence of the persons who signed the original SOP, prepare a corrected one signed by himself and the original signatories present, and the corrected SOP shall be sent to the returning officer.

84 (1) (b) goes on to state that where a mistake is discovered when the SOP is in the possession of the Returning Officer, the presiding officer shall be informed of the mistake and the Returning Officer shall summon the presiding officer and the persons who signed the original SOP for the purpose of effecting the necessary correction of the SOP by the presiding officer in the presence of the other persons mentioned in the paragraph as stated.

Section 84 (3) further states that where any counting agent for the district requests a final count, he shall indicate whether he requests a general count or a limited count, and in the latter case shall specify the polling places in respect of which the final count is to be conducted and the Returning Officer shall conduct the count as requested.

On Thursday, Mingo had started the process of announcing the results for Region Four—the last of the results from polling in the ten electoral districts—but his attempts were drowned out by loud shouting by members of the opposition PPP/C and other political parties which contested the elections.

The injunction was served on the Commission subsequent to this.

Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield, Mingo and the GECOM are listed as respondents in the action and they were represented today by Senior Counsel Neil Boston.

Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes appeared for Holladar.


UPDATED

Guyana Elections 2020: High Court says it can hear case against GECOM …..

— agrees elections report must be scrapped

Guyana High Court

Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire on Sunday ruled that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear related cases involving several now “absolute” orders against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that results for Region Four must not be declared unless they are verified using the same process as they other nine regions have.

Sunday’s decision effectively puts a brake on the possible meeting of GECOM to ratify  a report by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield and pave the way for the possible swearing in of David Granger as President for a second consecutive term.

George-Wiltshire also agreed with People’s Progressive Party (PPP) lawyer, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes that the report by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield on the March, 2020 general elections for the seven-member elections commission. “We are asking that the report be revoked and not play any part in the proceedings,” Mendes, a respected Trinidad and Tobago lawyer, asked the court.

After GECOM’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Neil Boston produced a written statement by Public Relations Yolanda  Ward that GECOM intends to abide by the law and procedures and the Chief Elections Officer’s email to the Commission Chairman, Claudette Singh was not meant to be contemptuous of the extant court proceedings, the Chief Justice successfully obtained his assurance that GECOM would abide by the court’s decisions. “We’ll hold you to that Mr. Boston,” the Chief Justice told the lawyer.

In explaining her decision that the High Court has jurisdiction, George-Wiltshire said the court can exercise supervisory jurisdiction outside the election petition. Boston, speaking with reporters outside the courtroom said he and GECOM were “disappointed” at the Chief Justice’s decision.

With the jurisdiction issue out of the way, lawyers for both sides are now required to file additional court papers in time for another sitting of the court next Tuesday afternoon.

Less than two hours before the High Court sitting, GECOM sought to assure that it was not contemptuous of the court proceedings because the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield wrote the GECOM Chairman Claudette Singh telling her he was finished with the results and that she could summon a meeting of the seven-member Commission.

“On Thursday, 5th March, 2020, a mandatory injunction was granted against the Commission and CEO which as a consequence impeded the finalization of the Commission’s work. The recent action of the Chief Election Officer indicating to the Chairperson and Commissioners that his report in the relation to the final declaration was completed was not intended to disregard the Court proceedings but rather apprising the Chairperson of the completion of the document and that she may convene a meeting at her convenience. In relation to this matter, no meeting was scheduled. GECOM remains resolute in the fulfillment of its constitutional and statutory obligation,” GECOM said.

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Comments

  • Trevor  On March 8, 2020 at 12:04 am

    Bharrat Jagdeo has this in store for us. The PPP is an extension of Modi and the caste system:

  • Trevor  On March 8, 2020 at 12:09 am

    There is NO difference between Bharrat Jagdeo and a racist Trini East Indian woman. This is what Guyana will end up like and will become LEGITIMISED under the PPP:

  • guyaneseonline  On March 8, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    Chief Justice says has jurisdiction in Region Four results case

    By Staff Editor – Stabroek News – March 8, 2020

    Chief Justice Roxane George this afternoon ruled that the court has jurisdiction in a case brought by a supporter of the PPP seeking full verification of the vote for Region Four at Monday’s General and Regional elections.

    Her ruling means that she will take arguments on the substantive case and there is therefore no likelihood of the swearing in of a new President until the case has been disposed of.

  • brandli62  On March 9, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    A full and comprehensive recount of all ballots in ALL regions, not limited to region 4, under international supervision and broadcasted (TV and online) is the only way forward. President Granger should be proactive and call for such a measure, which needs to be conducted according to the laws of the land. This is the only way to restore credibility to these elections.

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