Legal battle over House to House registration continues
Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall has asked the High Court to throw out an application filed by Attorney General, Basil Williams who claims that the issues being challenged in the court were already dealt with by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“The application filed by the AG is without merit and I ask the court to dismiss it,” Nandlall told the court on Friday when Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire commenced hearings in the House-to-House Registration case brought against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Nandlall is representing Attorney Christopher Ram who in an application filed on July 22, asked the court to declare that the House to House registration exercise is in violation of the Constitution of Guyana and the spirit of the Consequential orders issued by the CCJ on July 12.
Ram is also challenging the constitutionality of the registration exercise on the grounds that it will disenfranchise persons who are on the list but may not be at their place of residence at the time of registration. This is because the process involves doing away with the old list of registrants and creating a new database.
He also sought an order blocking the process from continuing but this was denied on July 23. Ram is seeking a further order to have GECOM begin preparations for General and Regional Elections.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General through his lawyer, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke does not want the court to continue the hearings as he argued that the matters were already adjudicated by the CCJ.
Hawke referred to the submissions made by the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo prior to the CCJ’s delivery of the July 12 Consequential orders noting that “the issues argued are the same.”
He noted that the Applicant, in this case, is now asking a lower court to give an order which was not given by the CCJ.
Nandlall, in response, said the issues are not the same. He noted that his client’s concerns surround what occurred after the CCJ delivered its orders.
“The consequential orders of the court (CCJ) is that the article 106 and 106 (7) become immediately engaged…They outlined elections must be held…The timeframe for those elections would be the 18th of September,” Nandlall told the High Court.
On Friday, Nandlall also continued his argument that the House to House registration exercise will delay the holding of General and Regional Elections, which in his interpretation of the CCJ consequential orders, is due by September 18.
He told the Court that Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield had no right to move ahead with the registration exercise since there was no Chairman appointed to GECOM at the time.
Given that there was no Chairman of the Commission, the body was not fully constituted to direct that the process move forward, he argued.
The registration exercise began on July 20, however, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh was appointed as the new Chairman of the body on July 29.
Stanley Marcus, who is representing GECOM argued that Lowenfield took an initiative to get the Commission’s work completed in the absence of a Chairman.
The Chief Justice in her response noted that it is for the Commission to sanction the CEO and not the law.
She further pointed out that whatever action is being undertaken by GECOM at this time needs to take into consideration that the three-months constitutional timeline for elections expired since March 21 after the December 21, 2018 No-Confidence motion.
The Chief Justice repeatedly alluded to the need for the National Assembly to meet and extend the period for elections.
The Chief Justice noted that “One has to be very careful with taking persons off” of the national register of registrants.
“What you are saying if you go to a person’s house and do not find them, you swipe them off…that seems ad hoc,” she added.
The legal arguments will continue on Monday at 9am.