CJ to decide fate of election petitions on Jan. 18
-Lawyer argues error, not fraud, in defective service on Granger
By Kurt Campbell
After more than one month, the case management conference on the two APNU+AFC elections petition wrapped up on Tuesday in Guyana’s High Court.
Chief Justice, Roxane George intends to rule on the preliminary arguments of defective service and whether former President David Granger is a necessary party on January 18, 2021.
The first case management hearing was held on October 22, 2020, with three subsequent hearings on November 24, 30, and December 1, 2020.
Justice George will ultimately have to rule on an application made by Attorney General, Anil Nandlall and supported by attorney for Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, to strike out the election petition (99/20-P).
This is the same petition that the Chief Justice had indicated on October 22 that she intended to have a full-blown trial for. A date for the commencement of trial will only be set after these preliminary issues are finalised.
The Chief Justice will spend the next 48 days reviewing submissions made by several lawyers before she rules on January 18.
She has described the case management hearings as an “enriching experience”.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Trinidad Senior Counsel, John Jeremie told Guyana’s High Court that the disputed contradiction in the date that former President David Granger was served a notice of presentation of the petition and his acknowledgement/return of service is not fraud but simply an error.
He was making his presentation in direct response to arguments by his Trinidadian colleague, Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, the attorney for Jagdeo.
Mendes had told the court on Monday that the evidence in the date of service to Granger and his acknowledgement was contradictory and unreliable.
Granger is believed to have been served on September 25, 2020, although he should have been served five business days after the petition was filed on September 15.
Senior Counsel Jeremie acknowledged that the contradiction exists but argues that it was an error in the writing of the date, insisting that Granger was served on September 18, 2020.
“When we allege fraud, we must do it boldly…if what my learned friend is saying is true, then this is more than fraud, it is criminal conduct but that has not been established.
“They have asked the court to believe that wrong things happened and lies under oath have been perpetrated by citizens of Guyana,” Jeremie said.
Jeremie insisted that it was simply an error in writing the date but could not say an error on whose part when asked by Justice George.
The Chief Justice would then say: “usually if one is dating something and it has the incorrect date, it would be the day before and not the day after…to advance oneself to the next day and write the 25 seems a bit strange.”
Jeremie, in response, agreed “it may seem a bit strange” but said he can only tell the court that he sometimes has difficulty in remembering what date it is and sometimes places the wrong date on documents.
The attorney doesn’t believe that the contradiction in dates is a good enough basis to strike out the petition. But attorney Mendes, in brief response, said he was not satisfied that Jeremie did enough to explain the contradiction and insisted that whatever evidence exist was unreliable.
“Much is made of what we are alleging is a fraud but all we have said is that the evidence is contradictory and unreliable… we don’t need to allege fraud to make that point,” he added
Nandlall also briefly responded to Granger’s request to be removed as a respondent in the case, pointing out that there has been no explanation from petitioners on why they decided to name Mr. Granger as a respondent.
Nandlall rejected the objection that Granger has been wrongly named.
He too said that he was not alleging fraud and perjury but were making comments on the evidence presented.
“They needed to make effort to explain the defective service as is shown in the records, they have failed abysmally in discharging that burden,” Nandalll added.
The APNU+AFC filed its first elections petition (88/20-P) on August 31, 2020, officially challenging the outcome of the March 02, 2020 elections and the recount exercise from which the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) emerged victorious.
A second petition (99/20-P) was filed subsequently on September 15, 2020, also challenging the March polls. The petitioners are Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick, both residents of Georgetown.
Ultimately, the Coalition wants the Supreme Court, after hearing its petition, to cancel the March 02 polls, which saw it losing the seat of government, and order fresh polls within 90 days.
If they succeed in their case, the petitioners are seeking orders from the court to declare that elections were so badly held that the results from it cannot be deemed to be the will of the people. At the same time, they want the court to have David Granger declared as President under those very elections they claim were conducted against the electoral laws and constitution of the country.
The petitioners contend that the Chief Elections Officer was not required to use the data from the national vote recount to produce his elections report from which the results were declared.