Guyana Elections: CCJ to give decision on July 8. 2020 on PPP’s election appeal

Trinidadian Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes

Lawyers for the People’s Progressive Party and a supporter of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) on Wednesday laid out their arguments on whether the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ has jurisdiction to hear an appeal of a Guyana Court of Appeal decision on the question of valid votes.

The CCJ said it would now study the submissions by the several lawyers and give a decision next week Wednesday , July 8 at 3 PM.   

Attorney-at-Law, John Jeremie, for APNU+AFC respondent Eslyn David maintained that the regional court does not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the Guyana constitution and the CCJ Act prohibit this. Jeremie further argued that even if the Guyana Court of Appeal is wrong, the CCJ could not hear an appeal. “The court has no jurisdiction to determine the matter…to determine whether that supreme court was wrong,” he said.

Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, for PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo and presidential candidate, Dr. Irfaan Ally conceded that the CCJ does not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal but to quash the case altogether because the Guyana Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction in the first place. He stressed that Article 177(4) was applicable only to someone who had already been elected president.

Attorney General, Basil Williams .

Mendes, at the same time, said the CCJ has a legitimate right to interpret the constitution and to find that the Guyana Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction. “If the decision is not caught by Article 177(4), therefore, your jurisdiction is not excluded,” he said. The lawyer the CCJ Act gives the right to interpret the Constitution, all civil matters and matters of great public importance.  He said the CCJ does not interpret the constitution “you would be violating the Constitution of Guyana.”

The lawyer for Jagdeo and Ally wants the CCJ to allow the appeal to that Trinidad-headquartered court, that the matter before the Guyana Court of Appeal is dismissed.

Mendes also wants the CCJ to issue a consequential order requiring the Chief Elections Officer to withdraw his report to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and declare the result on the basis of the recount.

Queen’s Counsel, Justin Simon,in association with Attorney General, Senior Counsel Basil Williams, said based on the CCJ’s interpretation of Article 177(4) of Guyana’s constitution would have determine whether it has a residual jurisdiction. At the same time, he said the Guyana Court of Appeal enjoys jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution. “Give a liberal interpretation…,”

Attorney General Williams  said the Guyana Court of Appeal has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with matters concerning the election of the President and the High Court deals with the election of members of the National Assembly.

Attorney-at-Law Reginald Armour, for APNU+AFC’s Joseph Harmon, also argued that the CCJ did not have jurisdiction.

CCJ judges raise key questions at Jagdeo-Ally “valid votes” appeal

President of the CCJ, Adrian Saunders

Two judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Wednesday morning raised questions about whether Guyana’s constitution and election law can be amended by subsidiary legislation.

CCJ President , Justice Adrian Saunders posed the question to Attorney-at-Law John Jeremie, for the respondent Eslyn David. “Does that sound right to you?,” Saunders said.

That question was asked at the juncture when Jeremie was making the point that the Guyana Court of Appeal was asked for an interpretation of “more votes are cast” as stated in Article 177 (2)(b). The local appeal court ruled that “more votes are cast” means “more valid votes are cast”.  The lawyer noted that the applicant that Article be read in accordance with the gazetted recount order number 60.

Justice Jacob Wit

Justice Saunders also remarked that if the CCJ were to rule that a court can determine the validity of the election of an official before the official is actually elected, that would be the first time that the Commonwealth that would happen.

CCJ Judge, Jacob Wit queried what was meant by valid votes, and he went on to remark that that would have implications for the Representation of the People Act which speaks about valid votes. “If you give a different meaning to valid votes, that would not be within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal and will be dangerous to do it this way,” the judge said.

The recount Order 60 provided for the reconciliation of votes cast in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections with voters’ lists, counterfoils and stubs.

Attorney-at-Law , Douglas Mendes, for appellants Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali remarked that “it will amend the constitution.”

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  • Francis Y Jackson  On 07/02/2020 at 1:19 pm

    I smell a rat in this decision – valid or non valid votes? will see – maybe they ought to have new elections.

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