Court of Appeal told recount will not commence before its decision Sunday

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The Court of Appeal has been told that while the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has decided to go ahead with a national recount of votes cast on March 02, the process is unlikely to begin by Sunday.

The decision to proceed with the recount was made by GECOM Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh who had repeatedly committed to her undertaking to the Chief Justice that if there were questions about the tabulation process for Region Four there would be a recount.

The applicant, Ulita Moore, through her attorney Roysdale Forde had expressed concern that any decision made by GECOM before the appeal is determined would prejudice the proceedings.

Once informed by Kim Kyte, attorney for the GECOM chairperson, that the recount is not likely to proceed by Sunday when the Court of Appeal rules, he expressed satisfaction with that undertaking.

All details regarding how the recount will be carried out will be provided later, the Public Relations Officer of GECOM, Yolanda Ward told reporters via a WhatsApp group.

Moore moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge a decision of the Full Court that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to hear her application that GECOM could not move ahead with a recount supervised by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as agreed to by President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

Dr Francis Alexis, one of the Attorneys for Moore, argued that the constitutional issues in her application are not issues for an elections petition court but said a review by High Court was the suitable forum.

He said that the main issue set out in Moore’s application does not necessarily challenge the results of the elections, for which an elections petition would be proper.

But rather, he said it is simply about the chairperson and the Guyana Elections Commission refusing the functions reposed in them by the constitution, namely, to deem who is elected President and the winning list of candidates.

He said that the intent of the agreement between the President, the Opposition Leader and CARICOM had the power to dictate to the chair and GECOM and that would amount to usurping the functions of the Commission and forcing the chairperson and GECOM to surrender their constitutional and statutory duties.

To support his point, he said the agreement between the political leaders states that the CARICOM team would be “independent” of GECOM, and therefore would be performing functions not authorised by GECOM. That he said, would be the chairperson and GECOM abdicating and surrendering their constitutional duty.

Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes argued that the supervision of the process by CARICOM was the mechanism which GECOM chose to correct the deficiencies which had been raised about the process and that arrangement would not take away from the powers of GECOM.

Attorney Timothy Jonas, who represented respondents for the parties ANUG, TNM and LJP, noted that GECOM was the one acting to carrying out the recount and had tasked the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield with preparing a plan for how the recount would take place.

Justice Dawn Gregory raised the question about whether the Full Court was the proper court to appeal Justice Franklyn Holder’s decision that he had jurisdiction to hear the applicant Moore’s case.

Her question arose out of the tier of appeals, saying that questions on the Constitution are appealed to the High Court and not the Full Court, which usually deals with interlocutory proceedings.

Both attorneys Mendes and Jonas argued that the orders made by Justice Moore to block the recount was interlocutory and not final as he had decided that he had jurisdiction and so the case was meant to continue. On this basis, they argued that the appeal to the Full Court was the proper recourse before the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal will hand down its decision at 11 a.m. Sunday.

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