By Feona Morrison
The recount incumbent President David Granger and Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo agreed to, and which was brokered by then Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mia Mottley, is now the subject of another cycle of litigation regarding the March 02, 2020 General and Regional elections. This time, government supporter, Misenga Jones, has moved to the High Court where she is arguing that the Recount of all ballots cast in those elections is unconstitutional, and as a consequence, the votes tabulated during the exercise should be declared invalid.
Just before 14:00hrs yesterday, when Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield was scheduled to deliver his elections report based on the votes tabulated and certified during the Recount exercise as directed by Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Judge Claudette Singh, Jones filed a Fixed Date Application (FDA), in the High Court asking for a judicial review of certain matters pertaining the the electoral process.
Jones, who says she is a community organizer with a strong interest in politics, having voted, through government-aligned lawyer, Mayo Robertson is seeking a number of Declarations and Orders against Justice Singh and Lowenfield. She is seeking a Declaration that data generated from the recount purportedly conducted under Order No. 60 of 2020 is generated by an unconstitutional process in that the Order requires decisions on the validity of ballots that by Article 163(1)(b) of the Constitution are the exclusive province of the High Court.
Order No. 60 of 2020 governs the recount of all ballots cast at the March 02, 2020 polls.
Further to that, she is seeking another Declaration that the votes counted at the National Recount pursuant to Order No. 60 of 2020 as amended, are invalid for failure to conform with the concept of valid votes described by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its judgement in the appeal of People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali, and the party’s General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo versus government supporter, Eslyn David and others.
Moreover, Jones wants the High Court to compel GECOM to declare the results of the elections using the figures declared by the 10 Returning Officers instead.
Robertson, on the grounds in support of his client’s FDA, contends that the Order No. 60 of 2020 which was issued under the purported authority of Section 22 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act, is unconstitutional and void. The lawyer’s premise for this contention is that Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act is flagrantly unconstitutional in that it violates the principle of Separation of Powers and impermissibly usurps the legislative function of Parliament.
Similarly, any Recount purportedly carried out under Section 22 of the said Act is unconstitutional, void and of no effect, Robertson submits. According to the lawyer, by its decision in the Ali, Jagdeo, et al case, the CCJ effectively invalidated any report generated by the recount process as being usable in the tabulation of valid votes.
He argues, “In paragraph 46 of its judgment the CCJ makes it clear that it is only an Election Court that can make any further determination of valid votes once the Returning Officers have submitted their returns to the Chief Election Officer.”
The FDA comes up for hearing this morning at 10:00hrs before Chief Justice (acting) Roxane George; the hearing will be conducted via Zoom video conference.
This morning’s proceedings will be a Case Management Conference (CMC).