CCJ postpones final orders in Guyana election case

The Caribbean Court of Jus­tice (CCJ) has post­poned its rul­ing on the fi­nal or­ders re­lat­ed to its de­ci­sion to up­hold the pas­sage of a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion by Guyana’s Na­tion­al As­sem­bly in De­cem­ber, last year.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Guyana’s Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion were ex­pect­ed to present to their views on what should tran­spire based on last week’s judge­ment at the CCJ’s head­quar­ters at Hen­ry Street in Port-of-Spain, on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

How­ev­er, when the case was called by CCJ Pres­i­dent Adri­an Saun­ders and his col­leagues, they in­di­cat­ed that the par­ties did not meet and had not come to a con­sen­sus on when a gen­er­al elec­tion should be called.

While Saun­ders ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment over the lack of progress, he ex­pressed hope that the is­sue could be re­solved be­fore he and his col­leagues seek to re­solve the is­sue, based on the par­ties’ writ­ten sub­mis­sion, on Ju­ly 12.

“I am hope­ful that if and when the par­ties meet, they can form some con­sen­sus on the way for­ward,” Saun­ders said.

Pre­sent­ing sub­mis­sions on be­half of the Guyana Elec­tions Com­mis­sion (GECOM), Se­nior Coun­sel Stan­ley Mar­cus claimed that his clients would on­ly be able to fa­cil­i­tate an elec­tion af­ter De­cem­ber 25 as it was cur­rent­ly in the process of com­pil­ing a new list of vot­ers.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Guyana’s At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Basil Williams sub­mit­ted that the court should not in­fringe on the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion by grant­i­ng an or­der com­pelling Pres­i­dent David Granger to dis­solve Par­lia­ment and set a date for an elec­tion. They sub­mit­ted that the elec­tion should on­ly be called based on GECOM’s readi­ness to fa­cil­i­tate it.

Se­nior Coun­sel Dou­glas Mendes, who is rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try’s Op­po­si­tion Leader Bhar­rat Jagdeo, sub­mit­ted that the part of the Con­sti­tu­tion which re­quires an elec­tion with­in three months of a suc­cess­ful no-con­fi­dence vote should be strict­ly fol­lowed. Granger has reached out to Jagdeo for talks but no date has yet been fixed.

Mendes al­so sug­gest­ed that GECOM was en­ti­tled to use the most re­cent list of vot­ers, pre­pared in Oc­to­ber, last year, and make amend­ments to it in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate the poll.

In its judge­ment, the CCJ ap­proved the ap­peal, in which Jagdeo, oust­ed gov­ern­ment mem­ber Char­ran­das Per­saud and so­cial ac­tivist Christo­pher Ram chal­lenged the de­ci­sion of Guyana’s Court of Ap­peal to strike down the con­tro­ver­sial mo­tion, which was passed by a slim 33 to 32 ma­jor­i­ty.

The judges sug­gest­ed that the Ap­peal Court got it wrong when it stat­ed that the for­mu­la for cal­cu­lat­ing the ma­jor­i­ty for the mo­tion was di­vid­ing the num­ber of as­sem­bly mem­bers by two, round­ing off and adding one.

They stat­ed a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty, as was tak­en last year, was all that was re­quired as the as­sem­bly has an odd num­ber of mem­bers.

The CCJ fur­ther ruled that Ar­ti­cle 156 of Guyana’s Con­sti­tu­tion, which re­quires as­sem­bly mem­bers to in­di­cate if they wish to vote against their par­ty and be re­moved a re­sult, was not ap­plic­a­ble in a no-con­fi­dence vote.

The court stat­ed that as­sem­bly mem­bers were al­lowed to vote against their par­ty even if it meant them be­ing re­moved af­ter­wards.

The court al­so re­ject­ed ar­gu­ments from Williams and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Comp­ton Reid over whether Per­saud’s vote should al­so be in­val­i­dat­ed as he had dual cit­i­zen­ship with Cana­da.

The judges stat­ed that Per­saud’s po­si­tion in the as­sem­bly could have on­ly been chal­lenged in an elec­tion pe­ti­tion brought with­in 28 days of when he was elect­ed in 2015.

The CCJ was al­so asked to con­sid­er a sep­a­rate ap­peal from Op­po­si­tion MP Mustapha Zul­fikar, who chal­lenged Granger’s ap­point­ment of re­tired Judge James Pat­ter­son as chair­man of the GECOM.

The court ruled that Granger failed to give suf­fi­cient and com­pelling rea­sons for re­ject­ing 18 can­di­dates put for­ward by Jagdeo, be­fore he went ahead to ap­point Pat­ter­son in Oc­to­ber 2017.

“The giv­ing of rea­sons by the Pres­i­dent will en­sure trans­paren­cy and ac­count­abil­i­ty to the peo­ple, avoid uni­lat­er­al­ism and ar­bi­trari­ness, and en­gen­der pub­lic trust and con­fi­dence in the Elec­tions Com­mis­sion,” the judges said.