…in challenge to non-removal of overseas residents on voters’ list
THE Court of Appeal, next Monday, will commence hearing into the challenge against the High Court’s decision to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from removing persons from the National Register of Registrant (NRR) Database.
The appeal was brought before the Appellate Court, last August, by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, who, in his application, argued that the Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire erred when she ruled that it would be unconstitutional to remove persons from the National Register of Registrants if they failed to register, during House-to-House Registration. The case came up on Monday, December 9, 2019 and will be heard on December 16, 2016 before the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards, and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud.
The respondents in the case are: Christopher Ram, Chief Elections Officer, Commissioner of National Registration and Guyana Elections Commission. The Attorney General is being represented by the Solicitor General Nigel Hawke and Attorneys-at-Law Mayo Robertson and Maxwell Edwards while Ram is being represented by Attorneys-at-Law Anil Nandlall and Kamal Ramkarran. The Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield is being represented by Roysdale Forde.
The acting Chief Justice, while validating the House-to-House Registration exercise, which was embarked upon by the Elections Commission, ruled that it would be unlawful or unconstitutional to remove the names of persons who are already on the List of Registrants and who were not registered during the exercise with a consequence of non-inclusion in the list of electors. George-Wiltshire had explained that persons could only be removed from the list if they are deceased or disqualified pursuant to Article 159. In her judgment, Justice George-Wiltshire also ruled that residency, in the case of Guyanese, was not a requirement under the laws but the Attorney-General, in his application, contended that the Chief Justice again erred. “The learned Trial Judge erred and was misconceived in law in finding that there is no law or laws in Guyana which set out additional requirements, more particularly, residence for purposes of Article 159 (2) ( c ) of the Constitution by failing to properly address her mind to sections 6 of the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08 Laws of Guyana. The learned Trial Judge erred, and was misconceived in law, in failing to properly construe section 6 of the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08 Laws of Guyana, in order to find that residency is a requirement of the Act for purposes of Registration, during the period of the ‘ qualifying date,’” the Attorney-General contended.
He, therefore, suggested to the appellate court that it would not be unconstitutional to remove persons from the list who had previously been on the list but was not registered during the House-to-House Registration period because of non-residency in Guyana.
Further to that, the Attorney-General contended that the learned trial Judge breached the separation of powers doctrine, arguing that the Parliament clearly provided, in section 6 of the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08 Laws of Guyana, for residency during House-to-House Registration. “The learned trial Judge erred and was misconceived in law where, from the evidence, nothing established that there was a breach of the provisions of the Constitution, the National Registration Act or any other law but the evidence was consistent with the fact that GECOM acted in accordance with Article 159 (2) ( c ) 159 ( 5) and 162 of the Constitution of Guyana; the learned trial Judge erred and was misconceived in law when she breached the separation of powers doctrine by purporting to issue instructions to GECOM, a Constitutional independent actor to not remove persons who are presently registered from the current National Register of Registrants (NRR) but who are not registered under new House-to-House Registration from the current National Register of Registrants (NRR),” the Attorney-General submitted to the Court.
On those bases, Minister Williams further submitted to the Court of Appeal that Chief Justice George-Wiltshire misdirected herself in law by failing to assess and address the importance and relevance of the provisions of the National Registration (Amendment) Act in the process of compiling a new National Register of Registrants. It is his belief that contrary to the ruling of the High Court, the provisions of the National Registration Act (NRA) and the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act ought not to be read together in the creation of a new National Register of Registrants. According to him, the Elections Laws Amendment Act applies to an existing Register and not the creation of a new National Register of Registrants under the National Registration Act Chapter 19:08.
“The learned trial Judge erred and misdirected herself in law when it was not proper for her to rule on the issue of persons being removed from the list because it was not an order specifically claimed or sought by the Applicant; and the learned trial Judge erred in law and/or misdirected herself on the evidence as a whole,” the Attorney-General said as he summed up his arguments in the notice of appeal. He is, therefore, asking the court to set aside or reverse the judgement of the Learned Trial Judge based on the grounds laid out.