“ACADEMIC qualifications are not a requirement for being President or presidential candidate.” This is according to People’s Progressive Party /Civic (PPP/C) party member and former attorney-general Anil Nandlall.
At the time Nandlall, a prominent attorney, was making reference to the court action which was filed by PPP/C General-Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo for an order to strike out an application which was made by two citizens, Dianna Deravinee Rajcumar and Phillip Marcus, for him to provide the qualification antecedents of PPP/C presidential candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali.
The application was, on Thursday, February 27, 2020, heard in chambers by Justice Franklyn Holder.
On February 7, 2020, attorney-at-law Stephen Lewis on behalf of the two private citizens, had filed an application seeking a declaration that they are entitled to know the qualification antecedents of candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali.
The PPP/C presidential candidate is allegedly being accused of academic fraud. It is alleged that he used a fake transcript to pursue a Master’s degree programme at an Indian university and the University of Sunderland.
The respondents in that case are Jagdeo, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM.) and the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.
Another order is that Jagdeo produce Ali’s first degree certificate and transcripts for any first degree; information pertaining to the name of the university or institution from which he obtained his first degree; information concerning the nature of study completed in relation to any first degree; information setting out whether the candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali was issued with a certificate of graduation, which states that it was issued by the Business College, West Demerara Chamber of Commerce within seven(7) days of the date of the Order.
Additionally, Jagdeo must also produce, within seven days, a copy of any transcript issued by the said Business College, the West Demerara Chamber in respect of a BA Degree in Planning; information on whether any degree was obtained by Irfaan Ali from the University of Sunderland; a copy of the certificate, along with a transcript from the university.
The two citizens are also seeking an order against GECOM to confer the above documents, which were conferred on the candidate Mohamed Irfaan Ali, which will be examined by them.
The two citizens have listed 11 grounds for their application to the High Court.
The two citizens had observed several articles in the daily newspapers, wherein Irfaan Ali refused to be forthright in his answer to questions and the provision of information surrounding his qualifications. Thus, they are now requesting clarification on his qualifications.
Additionally, they claim that they are entitled to know the education antecedents of the candidates to assess, process and interpret along with others with information, before deciding to vote for a candidate.
The application is also contending that GECOM is empowered with the responsibility to exercise general direction and supervision over registration of the electors and the administrative conduct of elections of members of the National Assembly, and to take such action as appears to it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness, and compliance with the provisions of the constitution of Guyana or any act of Parliament, and therefore has the authority to require information from, and in relation to, candidates.
However, Jagdeo and his lawyer wasted no time and moved to the High Court and quickly filed an action seeking an order striking out the Fixed Date Application filed by the two citizens, which they claim does not disclose any reasonable ground for bringing such claims and is “scandalous, frivolous and vexatious and is an abuse of the court’s process.”
Nandlall is arguing in his action that Ali is duly qualified by virtue of Article 90 of the Constitution of Guyana to be elected President and that the GECOM has already accepted the PPP/C List of Candidates for the March 2, 2020, National and Regional Elections on which list Mr. Ali is identified as the party’s presidential candidate. He is also a Citizen of Guyana by birth.
The application also contended that Ali is also qualified to be elected as a Member of the National Assembly and indeed, was a member of the Ninth, 10th, and 11th Parliaments of Guyana. He is also a former Minister of Housing, Water, Trade and Industry and he was also the Head of the Public Accounts Committee of the 11th Parliament of Guyana.
“If the Respondents/Applicants are of the opinion that Mr. Ali is an unsuitable candidate, then they have the right and freedom under the Constitution not to vote for him and indeed, to vote for another presidential candidate or political party of their choice,” the application read.
Against this background, Nandlall is also arguing that Jagdeo has no duty in law to produce to the two citizens any of the documents requested for their perusal and also the two citizens are not entitled in law to any of the reliefs claimed in their application.
After Thursday hearing, Nandlall told reporters that the application filed by the two citizens is bad in law and frivolous and should never have been filed.
“Academic qualifications is not a requirement for being president or being a presidential candidate” Nandlall said.
He also stressed that Ali was chosen as presidential candidate by PPP/C since 2019 and election is days away.
“It will obviously have no relevance to these elections. It may guide us in terms of the future… so it’s a case of academic importance now… it has no practical or pragmatic value anymore” Nandlall said.
The case is adjourned until March 19.