CJ throws out party’s challenge to stop LGE
IN less than 24 hours, Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George has dismissed two court challenges filed by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R)/A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) aimed at blocking the upcoming Local Government Elections.
The first challenge pertained to the voters’ list, while the second contested the demarcation of boundaries. Chief Justice George had dismissed both applications stating that they lacked merit and evidence.
On Wednesday at the Demerara High Court, the Chief Justice dismissed the application filed by the opposition’s chief scrutineer Carol Smith-Joseph against the Commission and its Chairperson, Justice (rtd) Claudette Singh.
The applicant had contended that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) acted unlawfully when it changed the boundaries of 37 constituencies in 19 Local Authority Areas.
As such, the party had asked the High Court to order the postponement or cancellation of LGE contending that GECOM had violated Guyana’s constitution and the Local Government Act.
However, in her ruling, the Chief Justice found the party’s application to be misleading since its orders sought were “vague.”
The applicant had argued that should the election be conducted in those circumstances, “the prospects of success of the APNU will be severely prejudiced.”
However, on this point the Chief Justice said, “That is asking the court to engage in partisan politics and that cannot be countenanced… there is no evidence to support this ground… it amounted to an opinion.”
She clarified that GECOM’s role does not involve division or changes in boundaries but rather focuses on other aspects of the electoral process.
The court ruled in favour of GECOM, as it was the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall, who made the decision to revert to the 2016 district boundaries for the forthcoming elections.
In fact, the judge said, “GECOM is not concerned with division into local authority areas, establishing or changing boundaries.”
On Tuesday, the Chief Justice ruled on another APNU’s challenge regarding the process used to compile the List of Electors (or voters’ list) for the LGE.
In her ruling, the Chief Justice determined that Carol Smith-Joseph’s application lacked merit as she failed to provide evidence to support her claims or the declarations she was seeking from the court.
The Chief Justice criticised Smith-Joseph’s affidavit and supplementary submissions for being of poor quality and lacking evidence of their source or how they supported her claim that the list was flawed.
According to the CJ, the documents were “extremely poor and poorly reproduced.
“The applicant must have known that what she was producing to the court is unreliable evidence… There is no credible evidence before this court of ineligible persons being listed in the RoV [Register of Voters],” she said.
The Chief Justice found that GECOM acted lawfully in compiling the List of Voters and that it has a constitutional duty to ensure that the registration of electors is conducted in accordance with the law.
“In my view that has turned out to be the most unmeritorious application that has taken up a lot of judicial time… The only positive thing that can be gained from this case is that it allows the court to urge that Parliament must endeavour to harmonize elections laws and to resist piecemeal amendments that hang over many pieces of legislation,” she said while dismissing the application.
Smith-Joseph has been ordered to pay GECOM costs amounting to $250,000 before, or on June 30, 2023.
Minister Dharamlall wrote the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh appointing June 12, 2023, as the date for conduct of the elections.
GECOM has already approved the work plan, which paved the way for the secretariat to proceed with the implementation of the relevant statutory and administrative activities for the elections in the 80 Local Authority Areas (LAAs) countrywide.
The LGEs were legally due in 2021 and the funds were budgeted to facilitate this. However, several issues facing GECOM at the time prevented the holding of the elections, including the non-appointment of a Chief Election Officer (CEO).
APNU is contesting in only 45 per cent of the 610 constituencies and 24 LAAs, while the PPP/C is contesting in all 610 constituencies in the 80 LAAs.