…as chief justice throws out application to reverse GECOM’s order
ACTING Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire refused the application filed by the Liberty and Justice Party Leader, Lenox Shuman, challenging the order issued by former Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson, initiating house-to-house registration.
At the High Court on Friday, the Chief Justice (ag) ruled that Patterson, while being the Chairman of GECOM, acted in accordance with the Laws of Guyana. Those laws, she said, permitted Justice Patterson to issue the order.
Chief Justice George-Wiltshire said the application filed by Shuman straddles between public interest and abuse of the court. She then awarded the cost of $200,000 each to the Guyana Elections Commission and the Attorney General, Basil Williams.
Shuman was represented by Attorney-at-Law, Sanjeev Datadin, while GECOM was represented by Attorney Roysdale Forde. The Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, appeared on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, who was among the named respondents in the matter.
Shuman filed the application after drawing the ‘conclusion’ that the National Registration (Residents) Order 2019 was invalid because the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had invalidated Justice Patterson’s appointment as Chairman of the Elections Commission.
Through his lawyer, Shuman argued that any order issued by Justice Patterson was therefore null, void and of no effect. He asked the court to issue an order of certiorari quashing the June 11 order of the then chairman of GECOM to commence house-to-house registration on the grounds that it was unlawful, null, void, irrational, unreasonable, ultra vires, contrary to the rules of natural justice, made in bad faith and made without lawful authority.
Shuman had also argued that the ongoing exercise will disenfranchise between 30,000 and 50,000 Indigenous people working in various parts of Guyana in the mining and logging sectors. According to him, house-to-house exercise stands to deny the “marginalised population” to exercise their franchise.
On October 19, 2017, Justice Patterson was unilaterally appointed as Chairman of GECOM. However, following his appointment, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Executive Secretary, Zulfikar Mustapha, filed legal proceedings contending that Patterson’s appointment was illegal. Judgment in that matter was handed down on June 18 by the CCJ, and while it invalidated Justice Patterson’s appointment as Chairman of GECOM, the National
Registration (Residents) Order 2019 was issued prior to the ruling, and is therefore valid.
Friday’s judgment was handed down days after the Chief Justice ruled that the ongoing house-to-house registration embarked upon by the Elections Commission (GECOM) is legal.
Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram had challenged the constitutionality of the ongoing house-to-house registration, however, the Chief Justice, in her ruling, explained the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana provide for the conduct of house-to-house registration as a form of verification – a position that was argued by the attorney general.
As such, she ruled that the June 11 Order published in the Official Gazette by the then Chairman of Elections Commission was in compliance with established laws. The order paved the way for the house-to-house registration exercise to be conducted from July 20, 2019 to October 20, 2019 – a period of three months.