GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 7, 2020 (CMC) – The acting Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire, said, today, she would deliver a preliminary ruling, tomorrow, in the latest twist to Monday’s elections, for which no clear winner has yet been announced.
“This morning, I had indicated that we would work tomorrow and Monday, but as you know Monday is a holiday here, in Guyana. I am now amending that. I will rule on this point, tomorrow at 1.30 pm (local time)…and whichever way it goes, we would take the break on the Monday, to resume on Tuesday.
“But as it stands right now, I will rule on this preliminary issue, tomorrow. I doubt it will be a very lengthy ruling,” she said, after hearing arguments from attorneys, for more than three hours.
Lawyers, representing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), is challenging the injunction granted to the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), that ordered GECOM to verify the results of Region Four.
GECOM attorney, Senior Counsel Neil Boston, argued that the PPP/C had been premature in going to the High Court, asking it to intervene in an electoral process that has not yet been completed.
“It must be dealt with by way of an election petition, and that election petition only arises after the elections. So any issue, as to whether the election has been conducted lawfully or whether there is any act or omission, which may or might affect the results, has to be dealt with by an election petition.
“Our contention is, what they are complaining is that the act of the Returning Officer for Region Four has affected the outcome of the elections, because they said the officer from GECOM was reading from a spread sheet, and their case is, whenever she read a particular statement of poll when they correspond it to their statement of poll there are discrepancies,” Boston contended.
But he argued that the position of the opposition can only be argued in an election court, in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution.
But Trinidad and Tobag-based Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, disagreed, saying “We are not asking the Court to intervene (in the elections)…and it is no comfort to anyone, to say, as my learned friend has suggested, ‘well let us suffer an election official, who, on the evidence, is apparently deliberately flouting section 84 (1)’, let us suffer that, let us have an election declared, let us have a government put into power, which, on the evidence, should not be there, because you can then launch an election petition and let that go through the normal processes of the court to reverse it at some point in time down the road.”
He argued that the wisdom of a ruling, by a former chief justice here, “is to say that in order for the public to have confidence in the entire process, to have confidence in whatever result is declared, let us ensure that there’s transparency, let us ensure that the public officials are performing their duties, in accordance with the Act that the public will go knowing, whatever the results may be, they certainly cannot question whether the Act, to its letter, has been followed”.
Mendes said the Act must be interpreted in favour “of the Court carrying out its constitutional duty, of ensuring that public officials comply with the law”.
Mendes argued that the injunctions do not challenge the results of the elections, because “they are not yet known and that they do not challenge the election itself”.
“What these proceedings seek to do, is to progress the election, to facilitate the election in accordance with the law, irrespective of what the results might be,” he added.