Chief Justice will Friday hear case seeking to discard recount results
The country’s Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George will Friday hear oral arguments in the case brought before her seeking to block the declaration of the elections results based on the national vote recount which shows a clear victory for the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
The case was filed by Georgetown resident Misenga Jones; she took part in the national vote recount she now wants the Court to throw out. In fact, during the recount, she was one of APNU’s agents who escorted the ballot boxes from the containers to the area where the ballots were being counted.
During a hearing on Wednesday, the Chief Justice said that having read Jones’ application, she concluded that the main issue is whether Order 60, which triggered the recount, was and remains valid so as to permit a declaration of the results based on the recount.
Therefore, the Chief Justice said the case also has to do with whether the declarations made by the ten Returning Officers before the recount should be set aside or retained. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has already set aside the declarations.
The applicant wants the High Court to say the declarations from the Returning Officer, including the District Four declaration which has been condemned as fraudulent, to be used to declare the results to give APNU+AFC victory instead of the PPP.
Further, the Chief Justice said the case is also whether the Court has the powers to hear the case and whether it is res judicata, meaning that it cannot be heard because a competent court has already decided on the matters.
The applicant, through her attorney Mayo Roberston, claimed that two Wednesday ago, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) declared that Order No. 60 could not create a new election regime and that any extra steps included in that Order to ascertain the validity of votes are unconstitutional.
But that is, in fact, the opposite of what the Court ruled; the Court validated the use of the figures from the recount as the only basis from which a declaration can be made.
“Unless and until an election court decides otherwise, the votes already counted by the recount process as valid votes are incapable of being declared invalid by any person or authority,” Justice Adrian Saunders, President of the Court, said in a ruling.
The Court then said what should happen when it stated: “It is for GECOM to ensure the CEO submits a report in accordance with its direction of June 16 in order to proceed along the path directed by the laws of Guyana.”
Several parties have joined the case. They include Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and PPP Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali, Lenox Shuman of the Liberty and Justice Party, Josh Kanhai of The New Movement, Dr Vishnu Bandhu of the United Republic Party, Shazaam Ali of The Citizenship Initiative, and Dr Mark France of A New and United Guyana.
The respondents in the case are the Chair of GECOM, the Chief Elections Officer and the Attorney General. The Chief Elections Officer was not represented in the session.
The hearing was held via Zoom and it is the first time the court’s sitting was streamed live via video and audio. The Chief Justice had previously set aside the Court’s rules and allowed audio recording and transmission of her elections’ cases given the public importance of the case.
Trinidadian Senior Counsel John Jeremie, who is representing the applicant, sought to suggest that the case would be drawn out because of the number of parties which sought to be added to the case. He said while he was not objecting to the parties being added, he said the case has nothing to do with them as no reliefs are sought from them.
But the Chief Justice said that she was going to let all the parties that wished to be heard in the case be heard “in the interest of justice and fairness.”
The Chief Justice said the way she will manage the case will allow for it to be expedited.
The attorneys for the applicants have until 23:00h on Wednesday to make all their written submissions and the parties will have 24 hours after that to file their submissions.
The attorneys for the applicant will then have until 11:00h on Friday to make final submissions and the Chief Justice will take oral arguments from 14:00h on Friday.
The Chief Justice said that depending on the submissions, she may be able to hand down a ruling on Sunday.