BY: DR TARA SINGH
The ruling handed down today by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s apex court, has literally pushed the PNCR to the end of the road. Their attempt to allow Lowenfield to interpret and apply, in his report to the Elections Commission, the Court of Appeal’s (CoA) ruling on “valid” votes was dumped by the CCJ in its unanimous ruling.
The President of the Court, Justice Adrian Saunders, in his erudite, unambiguous and intellectually stimulating presentation, said the CCJ has jurisdiction to hear the matters on appeal brought before it by Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali. He further stated that there was nothing in Eslyn David’s application to trigger the CoA’s jurisdiction.
Having asserted its jurisdiction in the matters, Justice Saunders noted that, for example, the word “valid” is mentioned several times in the law, and that only valid votes are counted after a tough screening process. There is no need for any refinement. The ruling by the CoA on “valid” votes was to give Lowenfield the ability to discard what he determined were invalid votes. And Lowenfield did that by arbitrarily rejecting over 115,844 votes in his report to the GECOM Chair.
The President of the CCJ admonished Lowenfield for usurping the power of the High Court, which is the duly constitutional body to deal with such matters as allegations of electoral fraud via an election petition. The CCJ also stated that since a President has not yet been elected, it is improper to inquire into his qualifications. This could only be done after the President is elected/installed.
The CCJ therefore declared the Lowenfield report to the GECOM Chair invalid, and advised that Lowenfield provide the figures from the recount, as directed by GECOM Chair.
Since it is pellucid from the ruling of CCJ that Lowenfield has no power to reduce or eliminate any valid vote of the recount, he is forced to submit, in his new report, only the official recount figures. He will not be able to seek shelter in any law or judicial ruling, as he did previously with the CoA ruling. The only option for Lowenfield is for him to submit the real recount figures, which show that the PPPC won the 2020 elections by 15,416 votes.
As part of this new report, he has to work out the allocation of Parliamentary and Regional seats.
What is striking also is that before the highly anticipated CCJ’s ruling, the ABCE ambassadors and high commissioners met with the Guyana Foreign Minister and insisted that a declaration must be on the basis of the recount figures. They are also reinforcing the conclusion of the Caricom High Level Team that scrutinised the recount process.
The Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo says that they are delighted with the CCJ’s ruling, and asks Guyanese to listen carefully to the CCJ’s judgment. But he cautions, “Let’s see what is next on their (PNCR) agenda.”
Just after the ruling, a crowd of PNCR supporters gathered by State House, where President Granger explained that the matter is now in the hands of GECOM, and further stated that the CCJ cannot instruct GECOM what to do. I wonder who could! The CCJ’s ruling has been received with great joy by all the people with whom I spoke. They say, “It’s a win for democracy and for Guyana.”