The public in Guyana and Guyanese in the diaspora applaud the Chief Judge’s decision on the GECOM matter pertaining to injunction and verification of election results. The ordinary person in the street knows the court has jurisdiction over GECOM. I am not a lawyer but I studied and taught American constitutional law. In the US, where over half a million Guyanese reside, every institution is subjected to the laws (written and unwritten or traditional) of the country; it is no different in any other democratic nation.
The court must have jurisdiction to order GECOM or any other statutory body to carry out the laws. If a body (agency or institution) can defy the law and feels it can do whatever it wants and then declares that the court has no authority over it, then lawlessness follows. GECOM is an independent body meaning government cannot instruct it what to do, but its behaviour falls under the jurisdiction of the court. The court must have supervisory power to order it to follow the law.
In any democratic society, a court must have (and indeed has) the power to interpret the laws and to correct its mis-application as happened last Thursday when biased GECOM officials allegedly defied the laws and proceeded to perpetrate fraud on the nation. Even in apartheid South Africa or racist Rhodesia, the court interpreted the laws fearlessly and the authorities abided by the laws with the security forces enforcing the court orders.
In Guyana, regrettably, laws are boldfacedly defied. A former Chief Justice who chairs GECOM and election officials publicly declared they would carry out the laws but did the exact opposite last Thursday. Then before the court on Saturday, a divided GECOM (PPP Commissioners had no lawyer in court) argued that a court has no jurisdiction to interfere in its illegal activities and defiance of laws. Such behaviour is not only contrary to the laws of Guyana but also to natural justice. The court must intervene to force GECOM officials to carry out law.
The learned Chief Justice cited relevant precedence where the court exercised jurisdiction on electoral matters. The CJ ruled wisely. She was impartial. The international observers and the whole world were watching the antics of some GECOM officials. Any other judicial ruling (that a court has no jurisdiction over the fairness of a process) would have brought the wrath of the observers and the global community. They would have seen Guyana as a banana republic.
The next stage in the judicial process is the hearing that begins on Tuesday afternoon before the same judge. The issue is whether the statements of polls (SOPs) must be verified in public for Region 4 in the presence of polling agents and observers before a declaration is made on the results. The process of verifying the SOPs of Region Four began Wednesday and various efforts were made to stymie it by GECOM staff. Almost half of the SOPs were verified on Thursday afternoon in Region 4 before it was abruptly discontinued with what observers called a fraudulent declaration. The observers, three of the six GECOM Commissioners, countless governments around the globe, international organizations, Guyanese at home and in the diaspora, among others have called on GECOM (Madame Chair) to resume the process of verifying all of Region 4 SOPS and then order the declaration of results. The world will be watching the CJ in action and her ruling.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
(political analyst and pollster)