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It is elementary legal learning the dictum espoused in the case Re Pinochet that ‘justice should be seen to be done as well as actually being done’. There has been the consistent charge of election rigging by some columnists, social commentators, others. But a charge is not a proven offence and it is said a lie can get halfway around the world before truth has its boots on. The notion of rigging is being used very loosely. What is fact?
In the Reeaz Holladar Case involving the Region 4 Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo among others, Ms. Sonia Parag, a candidate for the PPP, contended election rigging, so did Zulificar Mustapha, election agent for the PPP and Charles Ramson, another candidate for the PPP. In her judgement Chief Justice Roxane George was pellucid that the subject matter was for an Election Petition. All three persons are now ministers in the Ali regime.
The subject matter was again proffered by PPP attorney Anil Nandlall in the Contempt Case against Mingo and others. Nandlall subsequently withdrew the case for lack of evidence. One news agency reported, “A livid Chief Justice Roxane George said Nandlall had wasted the court’s time when he knew from the “get-go” that he had “thin” evidence to back his case. The Chief Justice pointed out that the evidence from Nandlall was “very, very deficient”.”
Editor, in the 2020 electoral process there are accusations that people who were out of the jurisdiction yet voted on election day, March 2, 2020. On May 22, 2020 the Chairman of GECOM Justice Claudette Singh wrote to the Commissioner of Police, ‘chief’ immigration officer, on the subject stating, “The Commission would wish this matter to be urgently addressed”. The response was in the affirmative. Information was similarly sought from the General Registrar Office on the issue of dead people voting or voter impersonation. The response was similar.
There were additional questions which needed urgent answers; some include issues of persons who voted without oaths of identity and certificates of employment who needed to do so, and issues where such documents were missing. Then there was the East Coast where in forty-seven ballot boxes statutory documents were missing which the national Recount subsequently revealed. The country needs closure and justice.
By mid-June 2020, in a GECOM press release, the Chairman stated, “some of the allegations are of a serious nature and must be addressed. However…the constitution confers on the High Court the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of an election.”
Editor, currently there are two Election Petitions before the High Court in which election rigging goes to their souls and sinews. Here is an opportunity to settle the matter definitively, by a court of competent jurisdiction. It requires willful suspension of disbelief that the very persons who sought the protection of the judiciary on the very matter are delaying such a determination on the preliminary issue of “service” of the Petitions.
Former Chief Justice Desiree Bernard’s words, in the seminal judgment Joseph Hamilton v Guyana Elections Commission, Bharrat Jagdeo & AG (2001), rings truer now than before: “No effort must be spared to assure everyone that the process is fair and impartial. Lingering doubts that hang like a Sword of Damocles over the head of the commission must be removed. Confidence in the electoral process must be restored. This is absolutely essential if we, as a nation, are to move forward and strive to heal the wounds that divide us.” Let justice be done.
Sherod Avery Duncan, MP