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…Coalition says as lawyers file petition
Maintaining that there is enough evidence that the March 2, 2020 elections was fraught with irregularities, the APNU+AFC coalition on Monday filed their election petition and calling on the courts to hear it expeditiously.
Accompanied by a large group of supporters, former President, David Granger and other top leaders including Opposition Leader designate, Joseph Harmon and Khemraj Ramjattan were on hands as Senior Counsel, Roysdale Forde handed in the petition. Forde is one of several lawyers listed in the matter. The others include Trinidad and Tobago Senior Counsel, John Jeremie; Raphael Trotman and Olayne Joseph. Claudette Thorne and Heston Raymond Bostwick are the applicants.
Speaking to reporters outside of the High Court former President and Leader of the coalition, David Granger said the coalition does not accept the validity of the election report which was presented. “We have compiled a dossier of anomalies and irregularities and APNU+AFC Coalition is convinced that if due consideration is given those anomalies and irregularities, it will be shown that the declaration which was issued, on the 2nd August 2020 is incorrect and invalid,” Mr Granger related. According to him the petitions is seeking to highlight a range of matters which came out of the recount process, among them the validity of the electoral process and the declaration. “We have set out today to establish the invalidity of the declaration and so if these anomalies and irregularities are taken into consideration, the outcome will be different. That is our mission and that is why this petition has been presented today”. Also speaking to the media Opposition Leader, designate, Joseph Harmon said too that the evidence in the petition was uncovered during the recount process. “The evidence from the recount which found its way into the report of the Chief Election Officer, in all ten electoral districts, in particular District Four on the lower East Coast where you had 49 boxes with over 11,000 ballots stuffed into those boxes without any other statutory document, I don’t know what more you need to show that the elections were fraudulent and that was only one incident, there were several others,” Harmon said.
At a virtual press conference hosted by the Alliance For Change (AFC) last week Friday, party Executives expressed their confidence that the petition(s) will result a call for fresh elections. “I do believe that we’ll have two petitions because there has been great interest, both here in Guyana and overseas, in ensuring that we have credible petitions going forward,” Trotman said, adding later: “It is not the first time that multiple petitions have been filed following an Elections. The reason, if one fails, there’s another to stand up because, as I said, the law with respect to petitions is very strict, compliance is very strict. So, if there’s a failing, and many petitions in fact have failed…it is important to have multiple petitions so, if there’s a defect in one, that defect, hopefully, would not be found in the other.” He stated that while some supporters were concerned about whether and when the petition(s) would be filed, by Law, this was to be done within 28 days of the official gazetting of the declaration of the elections which was made on Friday.
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.