Chief Justice expected to rule on Sunday

Petition to stop elections declaration

…GECOM Chair to await court’s decision

Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh, has given an undertaking to the High Court to put on hold all matters relating to the declaration of the March 2 elections’ results until the determination of the new proceedings filed by another APNU/AFC supporter, Misegna Jones.

Chief Justice Roxane George

In an application filed on Tuesday, Jones is seeking a number of orders from the High Court to essentially bar GECOM from declaring the final results of the elections based on the figures emanating from the National Recount process.
During a virtual case management hearing held by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George on Wednesday, Attorney-at-law Kim Kyte-Thomas, who is representing the GECOM Chair – the second named respondent in the proceedings – assured the court that the seven-member Commission will not take any actions or decisions until the completion of the matter.
“I believe [the GECOM Chair] has conducted herself throughout all these proceedings in a certain manner, and I believe, Your Honour, a similar approach will be taken in respect to these matters. So, I don’t believe there should be any apprehension by any party here that any decision would be made which would somehow make the exercise of this court’s jurisdiction in some form of futility. My client has never conducted herself in that manner,” Attorney Kyte-Thomas contended.
Wednesday’s virtual case was the first time the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana has streamed live proceedings from the High Court.

GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh

AG’s improper application
This undertaking was given on behalf of the GECOM Chair after an application was made by Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams, who is the fourth-named respondent in the matter. His associate in the proceedings, Attorney Maxwell Edwards, wanted to ensure that the GECOM Chair does not proceed to make any “declarations or decisions” in relation to the issues that were before the Court.
However, both Trinidad Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes and Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas objected to the AG’s application. Jonas argued that since he is a named respondent in the matter, the AG cannot make an application, whether substantive or interlocutory, when the applicant has not done so.
In fact, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes added, “We expect the Attorney General to be neutral in these matters, and not take a side… It is improper for the Attorney General to be seeking relief as a respondent when the applicant has not made any applications whatsoever.
The applicant’s legal team, which is being led by Trinidadian Senior Counsel John Jeremie, was experiencing technical difficulties at the time, and only made a request for an undertaking by GECOM after the fact. They were nevertheless informed by the Chief Justice that such an undertaking was already given by Attorney Kyte-Thomas on behalf of the GECOM Chair.

Oral arguments
Meanwhile, during Wednesday’s case management hearing, Justice George set this Friday for the hearing of oral arguments by the various parties in the matter, and outlined the schedule for that session.

The virtual court proceedings on Wednesday

Prior to this, however, she received a number of applications from several other parties that contested the March 2 elections to be enjoined in the proceedings.
These include the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Presidential Candidate Dr. Irfaan Ali and General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo. Also joining in the proceedings were: Change Guyana (CG) and The Citizen Initiative (TCI), A New and United Guyana (APNU), Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), The New Movement (TNM) and the United Republican Party (URP).
While SC Jeremie had no objection to the additionally parties being added to the proceedings, he expressed concerns that the sheer number of new applicants could delay the case, and he further questioned what they might add to the proceedings.
However, Justice George dismissed those concerns as well as suggestions that she consolidate the applications from the new parties and only adding one to the proceedings to prevent the case from being drawn out.
The Chief Justice noted that it would be difficult for her to choose which party to include in the proceedings.
“In the interest of justice and fairness, I would allow all of the persons or parties, through their counsel, who are seeking to join to do so,” she stated.
On this note, the Chief Justice detailed the timelines by which all the parties in the matter would have to file their written submissions, which would take them into Friday – hours before the scheduled marathon hearing of arguments.
Moreover, Justice George indicated that she is hoping to deliver a decision by Sunday, but this would be dependent on Friday’s proceedings.
The Misegna Jones application was filed in the High Court on Tuesday by Attorney Mayo Robertson, who had also represented Eslyn David, another coalition supporter who had also tried to block the elections’ declaration. That case went all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and was eventually thrown out.
Among other things, Jones is now seeking a declaration that the Elections Commission does not have the constitutional authority to direct Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
This is despite the clear provisions of Section 18 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act No 15 of 2000. Section 18 states that: “the Chief Election Officer and the Commissioner of Registration shall notwithstanding anything in any written law be subject to the direction and control of the Commission.”
The coalition supporter is also seeking a declaration that the GECOM Chair failed to act on the advice of the CEO. (G8)