In a unanimous ruling delivered yesterday afternoon, the Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment by Chief Justice Roxane George in which she ruled that residency is not a requirement for registration as an elector in Guyana. This was the court’s judgment in the partial appeal in the case of Attorney General Basil Williams vs Christopher Ram, the Chief Elections Officer, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Guyana Bar Association, appearing Amicus Curiae.

Adopting the ruling of the Chief Justice, the Court of Appeal held it would be unconstitutional to remove persons from the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRD) unless they are deceased or become disqualified pursuant to Article 159 (2) of the Constitution with the provisions for such removal in the National Registration Act to be complied with.

In determining that residency is not a requirement necessary for qualification for registration and by extension as an elector, the Court of Appeal, like Justice George, held that residency requirement was removed when the 1980 Constitution came into force. Williams has robustly argued that the residency requirement was re instituted in 1991 through the Constitution Amendment Act No. 4 of 1991.

The Court of Appeal, comprising of Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings Edwards and Justices of Appeal Rishi Persaud and Dawn Gregory dismissed this argument as being without merit. Justice Persaud agreed with arguments advanced by Anil Nandlall, lawyer for Ram, that the Constitution Amendment Act No. 4 of 1991 was a piece of “sunset” legislation as it was meant for a specific period.

Against this backdrop, Justice Persaud held that the piece of legislation is no longer in effect or operational; it has expired. The Chancellor was in agreement. She held that it was meant for a particular period for which the amendment was made. In a side interview after the court’s ruling, Williams said that he maintains his position and will approach the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for its opinion.


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