The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has filed an appeal against a decision handed down by High Court Judge, Justice Franklyn Holder, on Friday that he has jurisdiction to hear the case that was brought by A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) candidate Ulita Grace Moore.
That litigation seeks to block a recount of the votes cast in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) at the recently-held March 2 General and Regional Elections — a recount that had been requested by President David Granger and agreed to by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, as part of a Caricom (Caribbean Community) initiative.
After his decision on Friday, Justice Holder had set Monday for the commencement of the injunction proceedings.
However, Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall has since disclosed that an appeal against Justice Holder’s ruling that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine those proceedings, was filed.
In addition, the former Attorney General, who is representing Jagdeo in these matters, noted that an application for a stay of the injunction proceedings while the appeal is being heard, was also filed.
These matters will come up for hearing before the Full Court of the High Court at 11:00h on Monday, March 30.
Jagdeo, through his attorneys, had challenged the High Court’s ability to hear the case brought by Moore after lawyers for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) vehemently objected to his request to have the Statements of Poll (SoPs) for Region Four produced. In fact, a previous application by Jagdeo to have these statements, which contain data from each Polling Station, submitted in court was also denied by Justice Holder on Friday.
The attorney-at-law for the applicant, Moore, Roysdale Forde, himself an attorney for the APNU/AFC coalition, told media operatives at the High Court that Justice Holder, in handing down the ruling against Jagdeo, noted that such a request could not be accommodated through such an application, but rather by way of an elections petition.
It was noted that the request by the Opposition Leader dealt with the issue of tabulation of the SoPs in order to determine fraud, but this, as had been previously iterated by the Chief Justice (ag), must be done by way of a petition.
But Nandlall told members of the media that the Opposition did not believe that Moore’s case could be heard by Justice Holder, since that application questioned decisions of the Elections Commission.
Nandlall insisted that this must be heard by way of an elections petition.
“We have signalled an intention to appeal that decision, because we believe that the learned Judge fell into error and we will prosecute our appeal to the very end,” he said.
According to the former Attorney General of Guyana, the laws are clear in that all decisions of the Commission can be challenged by an elections petition.
This, he said, is opposed to the decision of an officer within GECOM Secretariat, such as the Returning Officer.
The tabulation of the Region Four results was mired in controversy and “credible allegations” of fraud by most of the political parties that contested the March 2 elections – and even by both the local and foreign observers that had monitored the contentious process. They are all calling for a recount.
This resulted in the intervention of the Caricom Chairperson, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who fielded a five-member independent team to supervise a national recount that was agreed to by the two leaders. However, the regional team was forced to withdraw their services after the Moore injunction was filed, blocking GECOM from conducting the recount.
But in her submissions to the court, the GECOM Chair, (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh, who was named a party in the Moore injunction, has indicated that she is prepared to discharge her duties under the Constitution.
Nandlall told reporters that the GECOM Chair in her submissions reiterated that it was that entity that was in charge of the electoral process and Moore’s application should not be granted, “because it would force GECOM to make decisions that are not truly GECOM’s decisions”.
He said too that Singh, in her submissions, conceded that while Caricom was intended to play a role in the recount process, the actual decision to facilitate the recount was, in fact, taken by the Commission.
The GECOM Chair, in her submissions – a copy of which was seen by Guyana Times – argued that once there was evidence that the electoral process was compromised, then to ensure the impartiality, fairness, and compliance with the provisions of the Constitution or any Act of Parliament, the Commission was constitutionally mandated to intervene to ensure public confidence in the electoral process. “This means that the Commission can order a recount… the intention of Parliament was to vest GECOM with independent supervisory powers to ensure the fairness, transparency, and impartiality of the electoral process”.
As such, she appealed that “this Honourable Court should not fetter GECOM in the exercise of its constitutional role and functions”, and added that GECOM “as an autonomous constitutional agency is guided by a legal framework and the decision to recount was in keeping with its supervisory mandate over the electoral process”.
However, lawyer for the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, Senior Counsel Neil Boston told media operatives on Friday that his submission was that a declaration has been made and a recount by the Commission based on a request by political actors would be ultra vires.
According to Boston, the Elections Commission does not have the lawful authority to accommodate an unlawful act.