22 Days after elections… Lawyers argue over Court’s jurisdiction in recount case

22 Days after elections… Lawyers argue over Court’s jurisdiction in recount case

Twenty–two days after the Regional and General elections were held in Guyana, lawyers are continuing to argue before the High Court on issues related to an application filed against a recount.
The case to stop the recount was filed by APNU – AFC candidate Ulita Moore. The matter is being heard by Justice Franklyn Holder at the High Court in Georgetown.

Yesterday, lawyers involved in the matter continued to present arguments over a request by Leader of the Opposition People Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Bharrat Jagdeo for the Statements of Polls produced to Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield for the March 2, 2020 to be laid over to the Court.

The Court is hearing Jagdeo‘s application which was filed alongside that of Reaz Holladar, a private citizen in favour of the recount. The duo is being represented by a team of attorneys, including the Trinidad-based Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes and PPP/C Executive member and Attorney -at- law Anil Nandlall.

Following a private hearing into the matter yesterday, Nandlall explained that Lowenfield’s Attorney, Neil Boston S.C had vigorously opposed his request for the production of the SOPs. Nandlall posited that the production of the SOPs would address the controversy over the results presented by Returning Officer for Region Four Clairmont Mingo.
He stressed that it forms the basis of which all of the legal matters stem.

“If that is addressed then, there could be a quick solution to the entire issue. Instead, we see a strong resistance to our request from the parties representing the Chief Election Officer, who is supposed to be an impartial respondent in these proceedings.”

According to Nandlall, the applicant’s (Moore’s) lawyers raised the issue of whether the Court has jurisdiction to order the recounting of the statements of poll at this time.
As a result, he said that his team countered by raising issue of the court’s jurisdiction to hear the application by Moore. According to Nandlall, the Court will now have to consider the issue of jurisdiction and rule on that point before it proceeds with the substantial aspect of the case.

Attorney-at-law Mayo Robertson
Attorney-at-law Mayo Robertson

In addition, Boston (Lowenfield’s Attorney), told reporters that the court granted the lawyers time to file submissions on the issue of jurisdiction. The written submissions are to be laid over by Thursday and the case will resume on Friday.
Last week, Justice Holder granted an interim injunction to put the recount process on hold.

The interim injunction granted to Moore restrains GECOM from setting aside or varying the declarations already made by the 10 electoral districts with any other documents or declarations, until the hearing and determination of the judicial review of the application.

Further, the interim injunction granted by Justice Holder, restrains GECOM from permitting or authorising “any person or persons to any agreement between the President of Guyana and the leader of the Opposition and or any agreement between GECOM and the Caribbean Community or at all, to count or recount any ballots cast by electors at the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections until the hearing and determination of the judicial review application.”

“The interim decision also restrains the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, from submitting any report of the total votes cast for each List of Candidates pursuant to Section 96 (1) and (2) of the Representation of the People Act, save and except the votes counted and the information furnished by the Returning Officer under Section 84 (1) of the Representation of the People Act until the hearing and determination of the judicial review application filed herein.”
Attorneys Mayo Robertson and Roysdale Forde are representing the applicant. Respondents to the court matter are GECOM, the Chairman of the Commission and the Chief Elections Officer.

GECOM was, prior to the injunction, scheduled to recount ballots in the elections following an agreement by President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The decision for a recount was made following an intervention by the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley. Prior to the injunction by the Court, Mottley had provided a high-level team to supervise the recount.

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