Home Top Stories GECOM tells APNU/AFC it has no jurisdiction to investigate unlawful acts
…says only court of law can determine election illegalities
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Wednesday maintained that allegations of unlawful acts during an election can only be determined by a court of law, in the wake of calls by the main political Opposition for the commission to investigate such allegations.
In a statement on Tuesday, GECOM Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward responded to these calls by explaining that according to Article 163 (1bi) of the Constitution, only the High Court has this jurisdiction.
“Recently, there have been numerous public pronouncements calling for GECOM to conduct internal investigations into allegations of electoral fraud that were reported to have occurred during the 2nd March, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“In this regard, it is of crucial importance to note that Article 163 (1bi) of the Constitution of Guyana stipulates that “subject to the provisions of this article, the High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine any question whether – either generally or in any particular place, an election has been lawfully conducted or the result thereof has been or might have been, affected by any unlawful act or omission,” Ward highlighted.
She acknowledged that correspondence listing the names of persons who were allegedly either deceased or out of the jurisdiction on the date of the elections were indeed received from the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition during the national recount. These lists were sent to the Registrar General and Chief Immigration Officer respectively for verification.
“However, notwithstanding this action having been taken, GECOM could not have taken any further action in this matter, since to do so would have been in contravention of Article 163 of the Constitution.
“The fact that the national recount had established that more votes were cast in favour of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), the onus was on the APNU+AFC to file an election petition to determine the validity of the allegations of unlawful acts such as voter impersonation,” Ward said in the release.
In light of this, she reminded all stakeholders, but particularly the political parties, that GECOM’s operations continue to be guided by the Constitution and the relevant laws for the conduct of registration and elections.
Last week, APNU/AFC through its Chief Scrutineer, Carol Joseph had sent a letter to GECOM seeking an investigation into and public disclosure of alleged voter impersonation at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
In the letter, the Opposition makes a number of demands when it comes to the probe into voter fraud at the last election. For one, it demanded that all information on voter impersonation be forwarded to the Police and the General Registration Officer. Additionally, it demanded that any verified reports of voter impersonation be publicly released.
The party had also called for GECOM to do an internal probe into the matter, which it claim the electoral body had discontinued in 2020, as well as take steps to prevent any potential voter impersonation in the future.
However, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj has debunked this, and noted that the elections body did convey all the names APNU/AFC submitted to it, to the relevant authorities for verification. Moreover, Gunraj has pointed out the legal impossibility of GECOM doing investigations of its own.
Additionally, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has already asked the Police to investigate the documents of alleged voter fraud, which APNU had provided to GECOM after the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.
At a recent statutory meeting, GECOM had voted to release these very documents, which had been requested by Nandlall to investigate claims of rigging at the 2020 elections, notwithstanding efforts by the Opposition-nominated commissioners to block this.
In a previous edition of his programme “Issues in the News”, Nandlall had pointed out that back in 2020, when APNU/AFC first made its erroneous claims, the PPP/C did investigations of its own. During its investigations, the PPP/C was able to find many of the persons that APNU/AFC claimed were out of the jurisdiction or dead.
In fact, at the time many of these persons had come forward to protest against and dispute APNU/AFC’s claims. This publication published several such persons, who had been accused by the then ruling party of being either dead or out of the jurisdiction, when their vote was recorded.
During a previous Office of the Leader of the Opposition press conference, however, Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and Shadow Attorney General Roysdale Forde, SC, had admitted that some of the information the party had submitted to GECOM for verification was indeed inaccurate. However, he had urged that all the information be verified. (G3)