Ramkarran asks CCJ to rule recount results as “valid results”
– says Guyanese need “relief from this torment”
Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran on Wednesday asked the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to make a final determination as to what the “valid” results of the March 2 General and Regional Elections are, so that the protracted electoral process could finally be brought to an end.
During his argument at Wednesday’s hearing before the CCJ, Ramkarran, who is representing the three joiner parties: A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM), said the regional court should not only seek to set aside the Court of Appeal’s ruling, but also determine what the final valid results are.
“I respectfully seek Your Honours’ intervention to say what are the valid results of these elections. This case is about the elections, and this case is about the counting of the votes; and Section 96 [of the Representation of People’s Act] and everything else points to the recount results being the valid results in this case,” he stated.
According to Ramkarran, who is also Leader and Presidential Candidate of ANUG for the March 2020 elections, unless such a final determination is made, this matter would find itself before the Trinidad-based regional court again.
“There is disputation of what the valid results are, and unless this court takes a position on what the valid results of the elections are – if this court seeks to kick the election can down the road, and not to go down that road itself, we will be here very shortly – the issue will be here very shortly for this court to once again pronounce on the elections in Guyana,” he contended.
The Senior Counsel further pointed out to the Court that it has been four months since Guyanese went to the polls, and they need this electoral process to finally come to an end.
“…this a matter of great disputation in the country at the moment. I’m not asking Your Honours to seek any information outside of the parameters of this case. This case has all the evidence before Your Honours as to the disputation. I’m merely asking Your Honours to take this material before you and bring this matter to a close once and for all. It is four months now, and the people of Guyana need relief from this torment”, he said.
The CCJ is hearing the case brought by People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali and General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo, who are challenging the jurisdiction of Guyana’s Court of Appeal, which last week ruled that “more votes” in the Recount Order means “more valid votes” in a matter that was filed by APNU/AFC supporter Eslyn David.
However, Ramkarran argued in court on Wednesday that the Appeal Court’s interpretation of more votes to be more “valid” votes can only be within the context of the Representation of People’s Act (ROPA), since valid and invalid votes are only referred to there, and nowhere else in the Constitution.
He further noted that the Recount Order which was used to guide the 33-day exercise is a subsidiary legislation. He pointed to the Interpretation and General Clauses Act at Section 20 (1) (b) which states “No subsidiary legislation shall be inconsistent with the provisions of any Act”.
As such, the legal expert asserted that “…final and credible” cannot be interpreted to mean anything else than valid. Final and credible cannot add an additional layer of credibility on the meaning of valid that Ms. David seeks that we apply.”
Moreover, Ramkarran told the Court that Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield used the Appeal Court’s interpretation as a guide and went ahead to dump some 115,000 votes which he felt were invalid.
“He feels court give him a license to determine what the term ‘valid’ means… He certainly used what he understood what the court meant to take away 115,000 votes,” he stated.
To this end, he submitted that the CCJ “ought to have no hesitation in ruling that [the CEO’s report] be set aside and ruled null and void.”
According to the Senior Counsel, Lowenfield went against the instructions of the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Justice Claudette Singh, who had directed him to use the results from the recount to prepare his filed elections report.
The National Recount showed that the PPP/C is the winner of the March 2 elections having secured over 15,000 votes more than its main political rival, the APNU/AFC Coalition. The exercise, which has been certified by a special Caricom Team and deemed credible by all international and local observers, revealed that the PPP/C obtained 233,336 votes while APNU/AFC garnered 217,920 votes.
However, Lowenfield instead submitted his report with figures that he considers to be “valid”, showing the APNU/AFC in the lead with 171,825 votes, while the PPP/C got 166,343 votes.
In court on Wednesday, Ramkarran argued that Section 96 of the ROPA, which Lowenfield claims he acted under in preparing his report, provides no opportunity for the CEO to make a judgement on the results of the elections.
“The Recount Order preserved the function of the CEO under Section 96, and the Chairman of GECOM wrote to him to provide the results of the election on the basis of the recount results and under Section 96. The CEO, whether he ignored it or not, he certainly interpreted it of his own imagination, based on this case, lopping of 115,000 votes and reversing the results of the election to give APNU/AFC the win instead of the PPP/C, which had been declared as obtaining 15,000 more votes than APNU in the recount results,” Ramkarran stated.