– says NDCs, municipalities acting illegally
Weeks after successfully getting Government to overturn a decision to have a recent birth certificate tendered when a new
passport is being applied for, a lawyer known for taking on sensitive constitutional challenges is at it again.
This time, attorney-at-law Saphier Husain-Subedar has gone to court asking for orders that will force Government to hold Local Government Elections between November 1st and December 7th, of this year.
The motion, filed yesterday, will be heard this afternoon by Chief Justice (acting), Ian Chang.
The court action comes at a time when the Opposition and the diplomatic community have been intensifying pressure on Government to hold the elections, the last of which took place in 1994. There have been a number of protests by the Opposition over the delays, with the diplomatic community even issuing statements calling for elections. However, the process has been stymied by delays, with Government objecting to the number of dead persons on the voters’ list, among other things.
The lawyer is asking for an Order or Rule Nisi to be directed to the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Norman Whittaker, to show cause why a final order should not be made that will see the holding of the local government elections between November 1st and December 7th, 2014.
The motion is also asking for orders that will force the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to conduct the Local Government Elections by secret ballot on the date appointed by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development.
Husain-Subedar is also requesting an order directing Whittaker and GECOM to file answers within14 days.
In supporting court documents, the lawyer said that he is the Leader of the National Independent Party of Guyana, a party that has plans to contest the Local Government Regional and National Election. This has been officially conveyed to GECOM since July.
The lawyer said that the last Local Government Election was held in 1994, some 20 years ago. This was despite the fact that elections are supposed to be held every three years between November 1st and December 7, as is mandated in the law.
“The Minister and his predecessors have acted inconsistent and contrary to Section 35 (1) and 35 (2) of the Local Authorities (Election) Act Chapter 28:03 of the Laws of Guyana and claimed to be protected by 36 A (1) Local Authorities (Election) Act Chapter 28:03 of the Laws of Guyana and subsequent amendment.”
The lawyer said he believes not holding the election is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations Declaration on criteria for free and fair elections.
Husain-Subedar pointed to the last Amendment of the Local Authorities (Election) Act – dated January 9th, 2013, which purports to postpone Local Government Election to sixteen years from the last date of elections to December 1st, 2013.
“It is my contention that said amendment is unconstitutional, repugnant and inconsistent with Article (71) of the Constitution and Section (21) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights.”
On January 16th, 2014, a bill was presented to Parliament to amend the Local Authorities (Election) Act to postpone Local Government Election for 17 years.
This bill was amended and passed in Parliament to read 16 years and eight months to August 1st, 2014, but the act has not been assented to by the President.
“It is my contention that the contents of the Bill No 3 of 2014 (not assented) are inconsistent, repugnant to, and purport to postpone Local Government Election contrary to the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The lawyer said that GECOM does not have a constitutional authority to cause the deferral of Local Government Elections
for over 16 years.
“I advised myself and verily believe that the right to vote at periodical Local Government Election is a fundamental right as recognized by the United Nations…and the Constitution of India and Amendment of United States Constitution. It is irrational and an absurdity that fourteen, fifteen and sixteen years have passed and the Election Commission is not ready for election.”
The lawyer contended that the postponement of Local Government Elections for so many years violates his and the rights of other Guyanese.
“I shall contend that the failure to hold periodic regular elections for Local Government from 1994 to date is in contravention of my rights guaranteed under Article 147 of the Constitution, “the right to form or belong to a political party” including my “right to vote and/or to contest periodical elections.”
The lawyer is also arguing that there is no existing law empowering the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development to postpone the appointment of a day for election.
He also says that all acts and things done or purported to be done by the Municipalities and Local Democratic Organs Authorities since December 1st, 2013 were/are illegal, unconstitutional and void since there is no existing law protecting the said acts.
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