The Appeal Court yesterday ruled that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) should proportionately allocate monies to the Parliamentary opposition parties for the purpose of offsetting expenses in the house-to-house registration process.
The matter was decided on by Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh, and Justices of Appeal B.S. Roy and Yonette Cummings-Edwards.
GECOM had appealed a ruling made by Justice Jainarayan Singh that the funds should be allocated equally to the combined opposition parties.
Members of Parliament (MP) David Patterson of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and Everall Franklin of Rise, Organise and Rebuild (ROAR) had filed a motion contesting the non-allocation of funds. The writ was filed by attorney-at-law Khemraj Ramjattan on behalf of the Parliamentarians.
The Members of Parliament had named General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Donald Ramotar; People’s National Congress (PNC) Leader Robert Corbin, and GECOM as answerable.
Lawyer for GECOM, Senior Counsel Ashton Chase, contended that the nisi order was granted on the same day it was filed.
However, Ramjattan argued that there is nothing wrong with an order being granted on the day it was filed, since this is the case almost all of the time.
Ramjattan also deflated arguments that Patterson and Franklin had no locus standi to proceed on behalf of AFC and GAP/ROAR.
He added that GECOM is subject to judicial review, since it falls under the administrative bodies exercising powers of a public law nature.
Ramjattan concluded his arguments by saying that, “None of the arguments raised were meritorious. Most of them were replications from earlier cases, in which Mr. Chase was the presenter of them. These were ruled on, yet he saw it fit to present them all over again here.”
Due to this, Ramjattan said, he is convinced that the appeal had the deliberate purpose of preventing the AFC from procuring finances which it is entitled to.
During the High Court hearing, Justice Singh had ruled that GECOM erred when it decided the commission held no legal mandate to remunerate party scrutineers, or to do so proportionately.
The judge said he is of the opinion that GECOM did have a discretion regarding the amount to be given to the combined opposition parties.
After perusing the constitutional provisions, Justice Singh said he was sure that the opposition parties were entitled to a proportionate share of the funds.
He noted that nothing in the law specifically speaks to proportionate allocation, but the words “the combined opposition parties…shall be paid such remuneration by, and as may be determined by the commission” must mean something.
Ramjattan argued, too, that, since $100M was set aside for the registration process, and since half was to go to the majority party and the other half to the combined minority parties, then that half to the combined minority could only be distributed proportionately, in the sense of each getting an amount equivalent to the amount of seats they have in Parliament.
He stated that $50 million was given to the PPP and the remainder was handed over to the PNC/R.
The MPs submitted that the decision by GECOM was arbitrary, unconstitutional, discriminatory, unreasonable, null, void, in excess of jurisdiction, and without legal effect.
Patterson, of Lamaha Gardens, and Franklin, of Charlotte Street, Lacytown, contended that on June 14 last year, it was agreed by all parties that a new house-to-house registration will be conducted by GECOM.
According to the writ, the political pact was agreed and signed up at the Office of the President.
“Further, we have been advised that the said GECOM’s decision was made under a misapprehension of the constitutional and statutory provisions dealing with how the administrative conduct of a registration exercise should be carried out, especially the scrutineering activity and payment,” the Parliamentarians said.
The Constitution of Guyana dictates that GECOM has an obligation to act in an impartial, fair and lawful manner pursuant to its functions.
“By Section 8 of the Elections Law Amendment Act 15 of 2000, provision is made for the payment of monies to scrutineers from all parties.”
The Parliamentarians said that they were informed by GECOM in July 2007 that an amount in excess of $100 million will be approved for this purpose, and would have been split between the PPP and the PNC.
This development gave rise to concerns that other parties would be excluded from procuring finances.
However, Chief Elections Officer Gocool Boodhoo, in response to the concerns, said that GECOM had no authority to make payments on a proportionate basis.
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