GECOM legal advice appears in line with the law – former GCCI President
…Commissioner says advice being vilified because it goes against agenda for delaying elections
The recent legal opinion by the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM’s) Legal Officer that the expired voters’ list should be refreshed without house-to-house registration continues to divide opinions. According to a former elections observer on behalf of the Private Sector, the opinion does follow what is set out in the law.
Making an appearance on Globespan 24×7 live show in New York on Sunday, former Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President and election observer, Vishnu Doerga noted that having looked at the advice the legal officer offered and then comparing it with his own research, it appears in line with what the law prescribes.
“I’ve looked at that particular piece of advice and in my research, it seemed to be in alignment with what is called for in the legislations,” Doerga said. However, he also noted that if there are still doubts about the accuracy of the legal opinion offered by the legal officer, all GECOM has to do is conduct an inquiry.
“So again, if we have any fear that it is not so, we should have some inquiry in terms of how we should go about coming to these conclusions. Whenever any company hires a lawyer, it is their responsibility to do their due diligence to ensure this lawyer is both competent and is acting in their best interest.”
“If at any point in time there is any doubt, in a company it’s simpler. You either let go of the lawyer and go through the process again or in a larger company, you might do an investigation,” he said.
Doerga acknowledged that as the CEO of a company, there might be times when he wants things to go a certain way. But he added that if the laws do not allow for that and he is advised in accordance with the law by his legal counsel, then he has to understand and take the requisite action.
GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj also made an appearance on the show on Sunday. According to him, Legal Officer Excellence Dazzel is catching flak for tendering the legal advice that recommended Claims and Objections because it goes contrary to the agenda to delay elections.
“Myself and my fellow Commissioners have been asking from day one, can we have a plan for the holding of elections that does not include house-to-house registration. Because it is my considered view that the refreshing of the list does not require house-to-house registration,” he said.
“That explains why so much harsh words are being directed towards the legal officer. All kinds of motives are being imputed to her. And the only reason for that, I am sure, is because she tendered a view that does not accord with certain members of the Commission. Simple. So the opinion is bastardised and they’re attempting to crucify her for saying that.”
Responding to questions from viewers on whether the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) can compel GECOM to hold elections without house-to-house registration, the Commissioner responded in the affirmative.
“The courts are the guardian of the Constitution. They have the responsibility to interpret and make orders that they see in keeping with the tenets of the law. It has always been my contention that house-to-house registration is a policy decision and a policy decision cannot take precedence over the law.”
“So the answer to that question is yes. I believe that GECOM can be ordered to conduct the elections without the need for house-to-house registration,” Gunraj added.
Last week Tuesday, Dazzel’s legal opinion was tabled at a statutory meeting of GECOM. In the opinion, she set out that “based on (election laws), the list must be updated bi-annually by adding persons who are now qualified to be registered, to that list and those who are no longer qualified to be registered, to be taken off that list.”
This runs counter to the arguments made by the Government-nominated Commissioners on GECOM that a new list was required through house-to-house registration. In fact, a United Kingdom (UK)-based Guyanese has gone to the courts over the exercise, arguing that if it goes forward, she will be disenfranchised. In fact, the Opposition has contended that many more will be in the same predicament.