AG to Norton: ‘Legitimacy’ of the Gov’t cannot be determined by elections petition

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Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, has made it clear that an elections petition can only determine that a government is ‘illegitimate’.

The AG made this assertion on Saturday in direct response to Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) Aubrey Norton, who publicly said that “The question of the legitimacy of the Government has to be determined by an election petition.”

But Nandlall in a statement said: “Mr. Norton contends that the legitimacy of the Government has to be determined by an elections petition. No Mr. Norton, you are reasoning in the reverse. The election petition may determine that the Government is illegitimate.”

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.

See below the full statement issued by the Attorney General:

A RESPONSE TO AUBREY NORTON

My attention was drawn to an assertion made by Mr. Aubrey Norton, leader of the People’s National Congress/Reform, to the press that: “The question of the legitimacy of the Government has to be determined by an election petition. It is not a case of the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Party just deciding the Government is legitimate. Legitimacy comes from elections in this regard.’’

Let me immediately offer my concurrence with the second sentence in the above quote. It is not within the purview, remit, or power of the Leader of the Opposition to determine the legitimacy of the Government.

The corollary is also a truism: it is not within the purview, remit, or power of the Leader of the Opposition to determine the illegitimacy of the Government, either.

Mr. Norton contends that the legitimacy of the Government has to be determined by an elections petition. No Mr. Norton, you are reasoning in the reverse. The election petition may determine that the Government is illegitimate.

There is a fundamental principle of law expressed in the Latin maxim, ‘’omnia praesumuntur rite esse acta [all things are presumed to be done in due form].’’ This principle applies to the March 2nd, 2020, General and Regional elections. It is buttressed by several incontrovertible processes, including that those elections were observed and certified to be free, fair and credible by every local, regional and international agency invited and accredited to do so.

Concomitantly, for five long months thereafter, several aspects of the tabulation of the results of those elections were thoroughly interrogated by every tier of our judicial hierarchy and eventually pronounced upon as legitimate.

Significantly, every single ballot was recounted, an unprecedented occurrence in modern electoral history. That recount was observed by a team described by Mr. Norton’s predecessor, no other than the sitting President at the time, Mr. David Granger as ‘’the most legitimate interlocutor.’’

This team adjudged the exercise to be transparent and credible.

The result of that recount materially coincided with the Statement of Polls (SoP’s) in the custody of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic and every other party (other than Mr. Norton’s) as well as those in the possession of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Strikingly, Mr. Norton’s party is yet to disclose their Statements of Poll for anyone to examine.

It is in these circumstances that the Chairperson of GECOM declared Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, to be elected President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic to be the victor at those elections.

Hence, I agree with Mr. Norton ‘’that legitimacy comes from elections in this regard.’’

As I stated earlier, the presumption of regularity applies. Obviously’ like every other presumption, this presumption is rebuttable. It is Mr. Norton’s burden to rebut it.

For argument sake, let us assume that the ‘’legitimacy of the Government has to be determined by an elections petition,’’ as Mr. Norton contends. His party has filed not one but two. Both were heard and dismissed by the High Court that has the jurisdiction to do so. Therefore, following Mr. Norton’s logic, the Government’s legitimacy has been determined twice by the proper constitutional forum. Admittedly, appeals have been filed against those rulings.

However, Mr. Norton’s legal advisors will inform him that the filing of appeals do not, by and of themselves, operate to stay the decisions appealed against. Further, they ought to advise him that, in any event, it is juridically impossible to stay the dismissal of a case.

In conclusion, I hope that I have persuaded Mr. Norton that even by his own logic and reasoning, the Government is legitimate. Let us now hope that he gets the coveted Leader of the Opposition post.

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