GECOM employees denied injunction to prevent testimony before Elections CoI
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–ordered to pay State $75,000 in costs by January 16

THE High Court on Tuesday refused to grant an injunction to three former employees of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) who were trying to prevent the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the March 2020 General and Regional Elections from compelling them to give evidence.

The applicants, Denise Babb-Cummings, Sheferen February and Michelle Miller, are accused of being part of an elaborate plot to rig the elections so that the APNU+AFC could return to office.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers, in a statement issued shortly after the court hearing had ended, disclosed that Justice Damone Younge refused to grant the injunction in the substantive application filed by the trio against the Attorney-General and the CoI.

The trio, who are currently before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court on electoral fraud charges, were summoned to give evidence to the CoI on December 2.

In a Fixed-Date Application (FDA) filed on December 5 by their attorney, Eusi Anderson, they sought several declaratory and other orders, including a permanent injunction preventing the CoI from compelling the attendance of anyone charged with a criminal offence related to the March 2020 Elections.

They also sought damages of in excess of $50 million each, for breach of their constitutional rights to due process, a fair trial, and the State’s alleged wilful exposure of them to self-incriminatory testimony under risk of compulsion and contempt.

The respondents in the case had argued that the applicants did not have a case, and that the court did not have the power to grant the injunction being sought.

“In response to the Notice of Application, the respondents submitted that while the High Court is vested with power to grant an injunction under Section 23(1) of the High Court Act, Chapter 3:02 of the Laws of Guyana, Sections 16 (6) and 16 (8) of the State Liability and Proceedings Act, Chapter 6:05 of the Laws of Guyana, expressly, and specifically prohibits the High Court from granting prohibitory or mandatory injunctions against the Respondents in the form of injunctive/coercive orders,” the release said.

The respondents further submitted that the CoI is a State entity, given that it was established by the President exercising constitutionally granted supreme executive authority, and having activated Section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act Cap 19:03, Laws of Guyana.

That section states that “The President [who] may issue a commission appointing one or more commissioners and authorising such commissioner or commissioners to inquire into any matter in which an inquiry would, in the opinion of the President, be for the public welfare.”

The release added the trio attempted to abandon their application and request a conservatory order.

“Having had the benefit of the Respondent’s written submissions, Mr. Anderson, counsel for Babb-Cummings, February and Miller, sought to abandon the application for an injunction, and instead request a conservatory order, which may be granted against the State in appropriate cases. This application was denied,” the release said.

As such, Justice Younge denied the injunction.

Additionally, it was found that the CoI is indeed a part of the State pursuant to Section 2 of the CoI Act and consequently, the injunctive relief claimed against the Attorney General and the CoI was refused.

“The declarations prayed for in the Notice of Application are identical to those in the substantive Fixed Date Application, and to grant them would determine the Fixed Date Application. The conservatory order was prayed for during the hearing, and the elements to be satisfied are different from those required for an injunction. In any case, the case raised in the Fixed Date Application is not appropriate for the grant of a conservatory order,” the AG Chambers said.

Babb-Cummings, February and Miller were ordered to pay $75,000 each in costs to the State by January 16, 2023.

The hearing into the substantive application was adjourned to February 2, 2023, by which time, the State is required to file an affidavit in defence.

The State was represented by Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C.; Solicitor General Nigel Hawke; Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Kumar; and Senior State Adviser Raeanna Clarke. The CoI is being represented by Attorney-at-Law C.V. Satram.

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