Govt appeal of CJ decision aimed at further delaying elections – former AG
…says appeal has no merit
After months spent in the court contesting the No-Confidence Motion, the Government is set on returning to the court, this time to appeal Chief Justice Roxane George’s recent ruling that persons who were previously registered cannot be removed from the National Register of Registrants.
When contacted, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall on Saturday said that now that the Government has appealed the ruling, he and his legal team will have to consider whether or not to file a cross-appeal.
Nandlall, who is leading the legal team for original applicant Christopher Ram, also called out the Government for its “about-face”, from initially proclaiming a victory to now returning to the courts to challenge their ‘victorious’ ruling.
“The Attorney General, who first claimed a “massive victory” after the Chief Justice’s ruling, is now appealing the ruling. In essence, he wants the Court of Appeal to add “residency” as a qualification for registration when Article 159 of the Constitution, which enumerates the qualifications for registration, does not so provide,” Nandlall subsequently said in a statement.
“This appeal is therefore completely without merit but will provide another platform for the Government Commissioners at GECOM to dilate. Rest assured, next week, they will argue that GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission) should await the determination of this appeal.”
The former AG pointed to Section 11 (1) of the National Registration Act, which states that “No person shall be registered in more than one divisional register or more than once in any register established under Section 9.”
He noted that Section 21 of the same National Registration Act also provides that “Every person who procures, or induces another person to procure, his registration in more than one divisional register or more than once in any register established under Section 9 shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars and to imprisonment for six months”.
“The aforementioned provisions of the law not only prohibit duplicate registration but make it a criminal offence and every enumerator who registers a person already registered, commits a criminal offence,” Nandlall pointed out.
“The aforementioned two Sections of the National Registration Act along with the Chief Justice’s ruling aggregate to establish beyond doubt that the data generated by the House-to-House exercise is grounded in illegality.”
Despite all this, Nandlall noted that the Government Commissioners on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) continue to push for this exercise to continue and, in fact, for an alternative database to be set up.
“In any event, this will take months to accomplish and the only use which can be made of it is to extract the new registrants… these new registrants can easily be captured in a cycle of Claims and Objections. These arguments advanced by the Commissioners simply constitute another clumsy attempt to delay the elections.”
After several meetings with the six Commissioners and Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, GECOM seems to have made little progress in ascertaining a timeframe to hold elections. According to Nandlall, there seems to be an attempt to appease both sides of the political divide. But he noted that this boils down to the Government’s agenda of delaying elections being facilitated by GECOM.
“The reality is that the demands of one side is for constitutional compliance while the demands of the other side is to perpetuate constitutional non-compliance. In such a matrix, there is simply no place for compromise. Constitutional compliance is the only option. The Chairperson of GECOM knows this more than most others,” Nandlall said.
Despite calling it a partial appeal, Attorney General Basil Williams is contesting most of the major points from the Chief Justice’s August 14 ruling. One of the major contestations in the Notice of Appeal (NOA) is the residency requirement for being registered.
The Chief Justice had ruled that persons, once registered, could not be removed by enumerators without just cause. In the AG’s appeal, however, the Chief Justice is accused of being misconceived in law by not properly considering Section 6 of the National Registration Act.
According to the AG, Section 6 of the Act makes residency a requirement for registration during the qualifying date period. The AG is also alleging that the Chief Justice, somehow, breached the separation of powers doctrine by ruling that GECOM could not remove registrants who were alive and well.
In fact, there are 16 points in the NOA in which the AG claims the CJ misinterpreted the law or misdirected herself. The AG is asking for the Chief Justice’s judgment to be set aside and for costs to be paid to him.
The original appellant, anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram, as well as Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, the Commissioner of National Registration and GECOM itself were named as the respondents.