Elections petition ruling today
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Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, who is representing the state in the matter
Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, who is representing the state in the matter

THE highly anticipated ruling in the last-standing Elections Petition, 88 of 2020, Claudette Thorne et anor v Keith Lowenfield et al, is scheduled to be delivered today by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George C.C.H, S.C., in the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature.
The decision by the chief justice will be handed down at 11:00hrs and is expected to be widely broadcasted; however, it will be livestreamed and can also be accessed at the Supreme Court website at www.supremecourt.gy.
In this matter, petitioners Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick contend that Section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2000 is unconstitutional and that Order 60 of 2020, which authorised the elections recount process, is invalid, null, void and of no effect.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George CCH, SC

Order 60 was created by virtue of Article 162(1) of the Constitution and Section 22 of the Election Laws Amendment Act 2000, in order to resolve irregularities, anomalies and discrepancies which occurred during the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections process, before declaring the results of the elections.
The petitioners are also contending that the Returning Officers’ Electoral District Declarations could not have been set aside and the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) actions were unlawful and encroached upon the High Court’s Jurisdiction under Article 163 of the constitution.
The last time the matter was called up on April 8, 2020, GECOM through its Attorney-at-law Dominican Senior Counsel, Anthony Astaphan, asked the court to dismiss the petition. He told the court that there was no breach of the constitution and that “Order 60 was entirely consistent with Section 22 and Section 162.”
Astaphan had elaborated that Order 60 was “transparent,” enacted in “good faith” and was intended to remove the difficulties that prevented a declaration of final results, which was pending for several months.

Attorney-at-law, Douglas Mendes, SC, who is representing, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo in his capacity as representative of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)
Attorney-at-law Anthony Astaphan, SC, who is representing The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)

“In the face of these difficulties, what was GECOM to do? What should GECOM have done with the intransigent [sic] of the returning officer and the chief elections officer and the difficultly to get cooperation for resolution of the matter,” he asked the court.
“GECOM was literally, by the constitution and by statute, obliged to act; it was obliged to act otherwise chaos would have resulted as a result of the inability of GECOM because of the difficulties and intransigent [sic] it faced in declaring the final results as to who was properly elected in Guyana,” he said. Alternatively, Astaphan submitted that if the chief justice should find a breach, there were no consequences which affected the conduct or result of the recount and thus the petition should be dismissed.
He also submitted that the position of the petitioners that the results of the elections were affected by the recount is “wholly inadequate.”
“There must be material particulars and facts that indicate precisely how that would have been done; merely to state that is a vague and general statement and they have not indicated how that is done,” he said.

Counsel representing the petitioners, John Jeremie, SC

However, despite the submission by the Senior Counsel on behalf of his client, the A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) GECOM commissioners, Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, penned a letter to the editor in which they noted that “it is a gross misrepresentation to attribute his submission to GECOM.”
“We the commissioners, whose nominations originated from the APNU-AFC or their predecessor, do not subscribe to the view that Astaphan’s submission is reflective of GECOM’s position,” the trio noted. Attorney-at-law, Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, representing Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo in his capacity as representative of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), put forward similar arguments as Astaphan. He contended that there was no excessive delegation of power to GECOM by Section 22, and that Section 22 is constitutional.

Further, representing the State, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, S.C, shared similar sentiments, emphasising that there is the absence of material facts and no foundation has been laid in the petition to establish any grounds upon which the elections can be vitiated.
The first elections petition, 99 of 2020, Monica Thomas et anor v Keith Lowenfield et al, was dismissed by the chief justice on January 18, 2021, on the basis of a procedural impropriety that the second-named respondent, David Granger, was not served the petition within the prescribed time for service.
Subsequently, attorney-at-Law Roysdale Forde, S.C. representing the petitioners Monica Thomas and Brennan Nurse, has since moved to the Court of Appeal to have the chief justice’s decision in that matter set aside.

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