After questioning the Attorneys for the petitioners and the respondents in the Election Petition matter for over three hours, Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George announced this afternoon that she will be handing down her decision in the case on the 26th of April.
The Chief Justice has received all of the written submissions and responses from the Attorneys in the matter and this morning’s hearing was to seek clarification on a number of issues.
At the conclusion of the hearing, she said she was hoping to hand down her decision within two weeks, but noted that with the additional information and clarification provided today, she will now be aiming to present her decision to the Court on Monday, 26th April.
The Election Petition 88 was filed by coalition supporters Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick. It challenges the validity of the National Recount Order by the Elections Commission and the declaration of the final results using that order. The order came out of an agreement between then-President David Granger and then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The petitioners have been arguing that the Elections Commission did not have the power to amend the election law on it own, making way for the Recount Order.
“It has to be one of two things. It’s either the Order is invalid in the sense that it did not comply with the provisions of the law, or that it amended the law for a particular time and a particular purpose. They can’t have their cake and eat it too”, Senior Counsel John Jermie argued. He is representing the interests of the petitioners.
The Attorney for respondents Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes told the Court that the order which paved the way for the recount did not infringe on the Representation of the People Act which covers elections.
He said “in this case, there is no question of amending the Representation of the People Act. Order 60 does not propose to do that. Language of the RPA is the same now as it was before Order 60. Neither did Order 60 modify the RPA because again, the language of the RPA is the same now as it existed before”.
The Attorney representing the interests of the Elections Commission, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan told the Court that the Recount Order was a valid one and the Elections Commission acted within the law in making the order and putting it into force.
According to the GECOM Attorney, the Law gives the Elections Commission the power to put the Order in place so that a the election results could be arrived at. He dismissed contentions that challenged the constitutionality of the recount order.
“The indisputable evidence is that this recount took place in the full glare of the people of Guyana because the count was actually broadcast live”, he said.
Attorney General of Guyana Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall told the Court that it is within the functions of the Elections Commission to resolve controversies surrounding the elections.
“Section 22 of the Elections Law Amendment Act was already in the public domain and GECOM had already indicated that it will utilise that along with Article 162 of the Constitution to proceed with the recount. So it is after the pronouncement from the Court of Appeal that GECOM proceeded to draw up Order 60 and with the agreement of all the parties”, Nandlall said.
Two Election Petitions were filed in the aftermath of the 2020 elections by supporters of the APNU+AFC Coalition. One of the petitions was thrown out over the late service on one of the respondents.
In the petition that is currently before the Court, the Attorneys for the petitioners are depending heavily on their written submissions, hoping that the arguments are strong enough for a decision in their favour.