Home Letters Positions expressed by lawyers for Govt bereft of logic
The positions expressed by the lawyers for the Government and the Guyana Elections Commission in the application filed by Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram, who is asking the court to issue an order compelling the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to hold elections on or before September 18, 2019, are bereft of logic.
Firstly, Basil Williams, SC, holder of the Office of Attorney General of Guyana has presented an argument to the court that the Caribbean Court of Justice has not set a “specific” date for elections, he also argues that the date and time for elections prescribed by the Constitution after the successful passage of a No-Confidence Motion has passed; he specifically states “Given that the CCJ ruled that the No-Confidence Motion was properly carried with a majority of 33 of the 65 seats of the National Assembly on the night of December 21, 2018, the provisions of Articles 106 (7) were triggered for elections to be held by March 21” . In making this statement, the Attorney General is accepting he knows that there is a three-month timeframe imposed by the Constitution, he further acknowledges it by saying “Credible elections could not be held on or before 21st March 2019 as this was logistically impossible”. The CCJ on July 12, 2019, stated: “The Court noted that the filing of the court proceedings in January, challenging the validity of the no-confidence vote, effectively placed matters on pause. The Court reminded, however, that it had rendered its decision on 18 June 2019.” The “pause” allowed Guyana to have a legitimate Government past March 21. How then can the Attorney General argue that “no specific date” means there is no timeframe? If we follow Basil’s logic to its conclusion, we would ask why have elections ever? All the Constitution prescribes is “every five years”, it never mentions a “specific” date.
Secondly, the attorney for GECOM is also arguing that the Constitution does not provide a timeframe for elections. He is seeking to re-litigate matters already decided by the CCJ! The Court already said “that it is not the role of the Court to establish a date on, or by which, the elections must be held. Article 106 is clear and it should be followed” and on the matter of the GECOM Chair “it was the Court’s view that the appointment process of a new Chairman should be embarked upon with the utmost urgency in light of the CCJ’s decision in the No-Confidence Motion cases which has triggered the need for fresh general elections”. GECOM should be acting with “utmost urgency” to comply with the CCJ rulings. In house counsel for GECOM has made this clear in written opinions provided to the Chief Elections Officer Lowenfield, who, when asked by a reporter publicly: “Can the list, if refreshed, be used to conduct a free and fair election?” replied “That’s correct, always has and always will”. There is no logic to the arguments being made on behalf of GECOM in light of the CCJ rulings and the declarations of the Chief Elections Officer. GECOM should be adopting a neutral stance such as that adopted by the Speaker of the National Assembly when asked to rule on the validity of the passage of the No-confidence Motion. The Speaker validated the motion and indicated all options available to seek further legal interpretation if any was needed. The Speaker did not participate in court proceedings and indicated clearly that he (the Speaker) would abide by court rulings. GECOM should move swiftly to adopt this position of neutrality and compliance with the rule of law expected of a constitutional office or body.
The Attorney General knows that a lifeline was granted to the Granger Administration by the pause due to judicial interpretation sought by the Government; everyone is aware that the three-month clock restarted on June 18, 2019, following the ruling of the CCJ, and that the legitimate life of the Executive expires on September 18, 2019. The Attorney General may feign ignorance, but for how long and at what cost to the nation?