Full Court halts elections recount case

…to rule today on Justice Holder’s jurisdiction to hear case

The Full Court on Monday granted a stay of the hearing in a matter brought against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) aimed at preventing a recount of the March 2, General and Regional Elections, pending a ruling into an appeal filed into whether the matter can even be heard by the High Court.

Full Court Judges: Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George and Justice Nareshwar Harnanan

The appeal was filed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, and arguments were heard by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George and Justice Nareshwar Harnanan.
Jagdeo’s attorney – Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes – in his application to the court contended that the case brought against the Commission by A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) candidate, Ulita Grace Moore, could only be heard by way of an elections petition.
The application was filed by Jagdeo after Justice Franklyn Holder on Friday last ruled that the court did, in fact, have jurisdiction to hear the case promulgated by the APNU/AFC candidate.
When the matter was first called, Mendes enquired firstly whether the Full Court would be hearing arguments for the appeal or a stay of the hearing.
The attorneys had filed both actions on Friday last. According to the acting Chief Justice, arguments could be made for both in the interest of time since the substantive matter was slated for hearing later in the day.
Jagdeo’s attorney in petitioning the court to grant the appeal noted that if this was not done then his client’s right to redress in that regard would have been neutered.
He was adamant that Moore is requesting the Commission to set aside a decision by the Commission, something that could only be entertained through an elections petition.
One of Moore’s lawyers, Attorney-at-Law Keith Scotland sought to contend, however, that Jagdeo’s participation in the matter caused him to waive any questioning of jurisdiction.
Scotland pointed out that Jagdeo had not only applied to be joined as a party in the case but also filed an application for discovery.
He contended that by virtue of participation in the hearing, the jurisdiction would have been invoked.
Mendes in his rebuttal contended, however, that this could not give the court jurisdiction it did not have.
He said it is a basic concept in trite law.
Moore was represented by a battery of lawyers.
Jagdeo was represented by Mendes and Anil Nandlall, while Neil Boston appeared on behalf of the Chief Elections Officer.
Attorney-at Law Kim Kyte-Thomas entered an appearance for GECOM Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh while lawyer Timothy Jonas made representation on behalf of the joined parties to the case, namely Liberty and Justice Party, A New and United Guyana and The New Movement.
Speaking with the media following the (ag) Chief Justice’s decision, Nandlall expressed confidence in the case and said that “based upon the submissions made the court had made a preliminary conclusion that our appeal has merit and is worthy of a stay granted at this stage.”
He said the Opposition Leader in his appeal is looking to have the matter taken away from being heard by Justice Holder “because the High Court has no jurisdiction to enter into an inquiry into the GECOM’s decision.”
He reminded that Moore’s case against GECOM rests on the fact that a decision made for a recount was invalidly made and violated the Constitution through an agreement brokered by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairperson, Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Motley.
That agreement had found favour between the Opposition Leader and caretaker President David Granger.
Moore in her affidavit contends that Caricom cannot usurp GECOM’s authority.
Speaking to the planned defence going forward, he reminded that Section 140 of the Representation of the People Act—a section that has never been considered before by the Judiciary in Guyana—prohibits the High Court from “inquiring into any decision or omission or acts of GECOM other than by way of an elections petition.
The former Attorney General has since argued that the provision was put in the statute “because Parliament wants GECOM to complete the electoral process and that is why Parliament has conferred upon GECOM a panoply [wide array] of powers.”