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– attorneys argue in Elections Petition case
The National Recount of the ballots cast at the March 2 General and Regional Elections was in direct conflict with the Representation of the People Act, and therefore, has resulted in an unlawful declaration, Trinidad and Tobago’s Senior Counsel John Jeremie has argued.
Jeremie forms part of a battery of lawyers including Senior Counsel, Roysdale Forde, Raphael Trotman and Olayne Joseph – representing the applications – Claudette Thorne and Heston Raymond Bostwick – in an Elections Petition Case filed before the High Court in accordance with Article 163 of the Constitution and the National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act.
In the Fixed Date Application (FDA) seen by Village Voice, Jeremie and team told the Court that the 2020 Elections were unlawfully conducted and the results declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were unlawful. In offering context, the lawyers explained that it was allegations of electoral fraud, even after a second declaration was made by the Region 4 Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo that led GECOM to facilitate a National Recount. However, it was noted that while the Elections Commission relied heavily on Article 162 of the Constitution and Section 22 of the Election Law (Amendment) Act, the legislation is unlawful.
“Section 22 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act is unconstitutional in that it violates the separation of powers and impermissibly usurps the legislative powers of Parliament,” the battery of lawyers submitted.
They further submitted that: “The regime created under Order 60 of 2020 by the Guyana Elections Commission purportedly in pursuance of Section 22 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act and Article 162 of the Constitution is itself ultra vires and inconsistent with Article 161 (a) of the Constitution.”
That apart, the lawyers told the Court that the primary objective of the National Recount under Order 60 was to determine a “final credible count” to pave way for the declaration of the results. Clear standards for such a determination were laid out in the Order 60 and its amendment. Notably, the Order required the reconciliation of ballots issued with ballots cast, destroyed, spoiled and stamped, and as deemed necessary, their counter foils or stubs. Additionally, the authenticity of ballots were determined, the number of voters listed and crossed out as having voted; the number of votes without ID cards; the number of proxies issued and utilized; and statistical anomalies. Anomalies, irregularities and objections by party agents were recorded in the Observation Report.
Jeremie and team told the Court that while the Chairman of GECOM, Justice (Retired) Claudette Singh had instructed the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield to prepare an Elections Report in accordance with Section 96 (1) of the Representation of the People Act based on votes counted during the 33-day National Recount, the Law strictly dictates that a report must be compiled based on information furnished by the Returning Officers. Notably, the Returning Officers were not involved in the recount exercise undertaken at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
“The statutory documents required by the Representation of the People Act, that is, Form 24, the Declaration Forms to be signed by the Returning Officers are the documents which must be submitted to the Chief Election Officer and it these documents which must be used to declare the results of the Elections under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act,” the lawyers pointed out.
They added: “None of the documents, (inclusive of the Statement of Recount and the Certificate of Recount) used in the Recount process were gazetted and are not required or permitted by the Representation of the People Act to be used for the Declaration of the results of the Elections under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act.”
The Chair of GECOM, while refusing to act on a report compiled based on information furnished by the Returning Officers, insisted that the Elections Report must be compiled using Certificates of District Tabulation but, this, the lawyers are arguing, is illegal.
“The Certificate of District Tabulation used in the Recount Process was not Gazetted and is not required or permitted by the Representation of the People Act to be used for the Declaration of the results of the Elections under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act,” the battery of lawyers insisted. The lawyers are resolute that it was the unlawful acts and omissions by the Elections Commission that resulted in Mohamed Irfaan Ali being declared President; emphasizing that the elections were not held in conformity with the electoral laws of the country. Thorne and Bostwick are asking the High Court to determine whether the General and Regional Elections were lawfully conducted, and further, whether the seats in the National Assembly have been lawfully allocated.