GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 11, 2020 (CMC) – Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire, will rule, today, whether or not, the injunction — granted to a supporter of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from declaring the results for last Monday’s regional and general elections — was justified on the grounds that the votes, declared for Region Four, were not completely verified.
“Two o’clock, tomorrow afternoon, for a decision. Again, it may not be the full, full decision, but I would like to render a ruling,” she said, yesterday, after hearing arguments from the lawyers, representing GECOM and the PPP/C supporter, Reeaz Holladar.
Last week Thursday, Justice Navindra Singh granted an injunction, against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield and Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo.
But four days after polls were held, GECOM released to the media, results for Region Four, which showed the ruling coalition — A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) — defeating the main opposition PPP/C, by more than 59,000 votes, hence securing another term in office.
GECOM Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward, had forwarded, without comment, images of Statutory Declaration Form 24 that showed the incumbent APNU+AFC securing 136,335 votes, while the PPP/C earned 77,258, resulting in a difference of 59,077.
Senior Counsel, Neil Boston, representing GECOM, argued that there was substantial, even if not 100 percent, compliance that would “make it not invalid” and “substantial compliance does not have to do with the number of ballot boxes or the number of statement of polls (SOP) left to have been checked”.
“It has to do with conduct, and that is what Mr. Mingo did. You may have 558 ballot boxes to count and they might only be able to bring 20 percent of the votes…and those that went before, because the area that they came from, could have given you about 70 percent of the votes,” Boston said, insisting “only the issue of conduct has to do with substantial compliance, rather than the issue of ballot boxes”.
Boston said the evidence, from everybody at the building, where the votes were being counted, indicated that Mingo had been working from Monday to Wednesday, bar a few hours, “and then there was bacchanal in the place”, with supporters of the PPP/C accusing GECOM of wanting to “thief the elections”.
“So what must he do? He (Mingo) doesn’t have to come and sit with them and go through a process of disagreeing with them, that this is what I have recorded from the statement of polls that were sent to me. He has to rely on those statement of polls that were sent to him from the various districts in Region Four.
If there are discrepancies …he has to abide by his statement of polls, and the statue gives them a remedy if they don’t agree with it, come to section 84 (2) and ask for a recount,” Boston said.
But Trinidad and Tobago-based Senior Counsel, Douglas Mendes, told the Court that Boston was seeking to resile from the position …in the evidential evidence, he has put in his affidavits by resort, to the presumption of regularity.
“The question, as to whether Mr. Mingo did the adding up himself or through somebody he was authorised to appoint, is one that was raised by him. He, in evidence, told us exactly what happened and he made it very clear; if you look back at the words he used in his affidavit, that the adding-up from the statement of poll was done in his absence,” by other electoral persons.
“He has said that very clearly. There is no room for a presumption of regularity anymore,” Mendes said, noting that the Returning Officer, whose decision is under challenge, “owes a duty of candour to the Court …he must be open, he must put all his cards up on the table, and therefore, we are to assume when he says he was absent when Miss Miller did all these tabulations and inputted the information into the computer through her clerks, that is what he did”.
Mendes told the Court that the Returning Officer then indicated he was ready to make “the declaration, this is by 7.30 on the fourth of March, that is what he says in evidence”.
“So he had already decided, in other words, by 7.30 on the fourth of March, that he was not going back to adding up the statements of the polls in the presence of the parties,” Mendes said.
He said, with regards to substantial compliance, Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, if he were to run the 100 meters “and he says well I finished 50 in four seconds, substantial compliance, I win”.
Holladar had sought a number of remedies, including an order from the High Court that the declaration of the Region Four votes by the Returning Officer is in breach of the provisions of the Representation of the People’s Act and, as such, it is unconstitutional.
He also wants a declaration that GECOM cannot legally, or constitutionally, declare the results of the regional and general elections, unless and until, the Returning Officer or the Deputy Returning Officer for Region Four, complies with the process, set out in Section 84 of the Representation of the People’s Act.