The landmark decisions handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Wednesday, in which it threw out a controversial decision by the Guyana Court of Appeal to insert the word ‘valid’ into the consideration of votes for the election of a President, has now paved the way for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to move ahead and declare the Presidential Candidate of the PPP/C as the next President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
In what was a unanimous decision, the CCJ ruled that the decision by the Court of Appeal was null and void and of no effect. Of significance, too, is the decision by the CCJ to invalidate the recent report by Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, in which he attempted to discard over 115,000 valid votes and produce concocted figures that show a ‘victory’ for the APNU/AFC Coalition.
We applaud the ruling of the CCJ. The ruling of the Court was very reasoned and on target. More importantly, the ruling is seen by all stakeholders as clearing the hurdles which were carefully orchestrated by the incumbent APNU/AFC to block the true winner of the elections from being declared, even after a National Recount had confirmed that the PPP/C had garnered the majority of votes.
As expected, the Court took into consideration the fact that the electoral process has been dragged out for too long, and said it must now come to an end in a transparent manner, in order to allow the country to move forward.
It also took into consideration that the country has been without a Parliament for more than a year, following the no-confidence motion. As Justice Saunders pointed out, no one could be satisfied with this state of affairs. He said: “Now the law must run its course”.
Now that the CCJ has handed down its clear ruling as to what the next steps should be, Chairperson of the GECOM, Justice (Rtd) Claudette Singh, must act swiftly in ensuring the Court’s directives are carried out.
We had said several times before that Justice Singh, as the Chair of GECOM, has wide-ranging powers to bring to an end the madness that has occurred over the past four months. Not only does the Chair have the backing of the Constitution, she has the support and confidence of major international powers, local civil society groups, and all the other political parties who have contested the polls.
All eyes will now be shifted to the GECOM Chair, and all stakeholders expect her to do what is right for the country, based on the Constitution and her own moral judgment.
The Chief Elections Officer was already directed by the Chair to prepare and submit a Report “using the results of the recount, for consideration by the Commission”, pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act.
Contrary to what the APNU/AFC Coalition is peddling, the entire nation knows what the certified recount results are. There were no ambiguities in the ruling of the CCJ.
As stated by Justice Saunders, periodic elections that are free and fair are the lifeblood of any true democracy. Guyana cannot claim to be a democracy if the process by which a democratic government is elected is being threatened.
The electorate have voted for a government of their choice, and that government must be allowed to govern in peace and with the support of all stakeholders who are interested in putting the national interest first.
That said, we join with the several others to call for President David Granger to ignore those within his ranks who are hell-bent on taking Guyana down a destructive path and do what is right for country. We urge him to concede gracefully and allow the country to move forward.
We have noted that even after the CCJ handed down its decisions, some persons within the Coalition are still behaving irresponsibly by restating unsubstantiated claims of voter irregularities. President Granger cannot allow this state of affairs to continue while he operates as if he is unconcerned. The perception is that he fully supports such reckless behaviour.
GECOM must act now. The nation has waited too long for this process to come to an end. The electoral body has a legal obligation to declare the results based on the recount figures, with or without the cooperation of Lowenfield.