Orders remain blocking recount
The interim orders granted by High Court Judge Franklyn Holder remain in place, blocking a national recount of votes cast on March 02; the Guyana Elections (GECOM) had declared a national recount after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo agreed with a decision of President David Granger to invite CARICOM to have a supervisory role.
On Friday morning, when the hearing was due to begin, several parties applied to be heard in the matter.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo applied to be heard in his position as leader of the PPP list which contested the elections; he is represented by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes and attorney Anil Nandlall. Mendes was heard over Skype. Jagdeo’s application to join is to be heard Friday afternoon.
The other parties who applied to be heard are A New and United Guyana (ANUG), The New Movement (TNM) and the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP). Their application to join the case was granted.
These parties contested the elections separately but used the legal provision for their votes to be counted together for the purpose of the allocation of seats in the National Assembly. The parties are represented by attorney Timothy Jonas and Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran.
In their affidavit, ANUG, TNM, and LJP contend that the determination of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for a national recount is “manifestly necessary for good administration” and the application blocking that recount is “mala fides” and granting the orders would “inure detrimentally to the administration of the electoral process, which is within the sole jurisdiction of GECOM.”
They further stated that it is “impossible” to conclude that GECOM cannot lawfully decide to conduct a recount of ballots and so the matter should be dismissed.
Justice Holder limited the number of persons who could be in his courtroom, given measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The applicants along with two attorneys each representing them were allowed in the courtroom. No media or observers were allowed in, though representatives of four media houses were allowed to be on the court balcony; the others were not allowed past the court gate.
On Tuesday, Justice Holder granted several orders applied for by APNU+AFC Candidate Ulita Moore blocking the Chairman and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from acting on the agreement initiated by President David Granger for there to be a national recount of votes cast on March 02.
The orders are interim.
GECOM has been given until Monday to file a defence and Moore will be given until Wednesday to file a reply. The oral hearing is not expected to begin before Wednesday.
Moore was an East Coast Demerara candidate for the Coalition in the 2018 Local Government elections and she is currently on the Region Four candidate list of candidates for the regional elections.
Her attorney is Mr Mayo Roberston, one of several attorneys who represented the Coalition in the No Confidence cases last year.
An order was granted restraining GECOM from permitting or authorising any actions pursuant to the agreement initiated by the President and agreed to by the Opposition Leader for a CARICOM High-Level team to supervise the recount.
President Granger and Jagdeo had agreed to the national recount of all votes cast in the ten electoral districts, even though the Region Four count is the one that has been in contention for the past two weeks.
GECOM, which had agreed to the recount, on Tuesday said it was awaiting legal advice and as of Friday, GECOM had not said if it received that advice.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran has said GECOM has full authority under the Constitution to acknowledge the aide-memoire (agreement signed by Granger, Jagdeo, CARICOM) and recognise the sentiments of Guyana’s leaders and CARICOM as contained in the document.
According to Ramkarran, Article 162(1)(b) of the Constitution of Guyana states that the Elections Commission “shall issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary and expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or of any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the matters aforesaid.”
“Under the above Article, GECOM has full powers to order a recount of all the votes cast at the general and regional elections on March 2 notwithstanding the votes already being counted, the time having passed for applying for a recount and the Returning refusing the requests for recounts of Region 4’s votes,” Ramkarran stated in a Facebook.