Sep 28, 2018 News
Attorney-at- law, Anil Nandlall, is expected to submit legal arguments over the issue of jurisdiction, which was raised by the Government in the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) legal challenge over the decision to expand constituencies for the Local Government Elections (LGE).
The PPP had challenged the authority of Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, and the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield, under the Local Democratic Organs Act, Cap. 28:09, to identify by name, boundaries and seats, a number of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) for the upcoming elections.
The Minister of Communities, had however moved to have the High Court dismiss the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) challenge by raising contention that the Court does not have jurisdiction to hear a case against the Local Government Elections at this time.
The matter came up before Justice Gino Persaud at the High Court yesterday. Lawyers for both the State and PPP presented preliminary points on the issue of jurisdiction.
Nandlall argued that the application has no merit, that it is vexatious and a waste of court‘s time. He also raised objections about the application on the grounds that the Judge does not have jurisdiction to hear the application put forward by the Government.
He noted that the while the Attorney General, (AG) Basil Williams who is Government’s legal representative is now raising the issue over whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter, the point was never raised at the initial stage of the matter.
As such, Nandlall questioned the logic behind the point over jurisdiction being raised at this stage. He believes it is a non-issue to the substantive case before the court.
Nandlall is nonetheless expected to put forward legal submission to support his contention by October 8.
Williams is maintaining his argument that that the Court lacks jurisdiction to settle or determine any matter pertaining to the validity of the 2018 LGE until after the elections are held.
Local Government Elections is set to take place on November 12. The AG has argued too that given that election process having begun on July 18, 2018 and the matter should be heard by way of an election petition.
In their application before the Court, the Parliamentary Opposition accused the government of gerrymandering LGE boundaries to undermine its stakes at the upcoming elections.
The PPP has contended that the actions by the Minister are illegal, in violation of the Local Democratic Organs Act and in excess of jurisdiction, when he failed to satisfy or observe procedures required by law.
The PPP through its GECOM representative, Bibi Shadick, accused that the Minister altered existing boundaries within existing NDCs without any attempt to consult with important stakeholders, including the electors and the political parties.
However, Bulkan is contending that the procedure set out in Part IV and Section 146, Section 147 and 148 of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act of Chapter 28:03 provides that the only proper procedure to dispute the validity of the election or the election of a councilor is by way of Election Petition to the High Court, which shall be presented within 28 days of the publication of the results of the election, under Section 101 of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act of Chapter 28:03.
“The Applicant cannot lawfully challenge the validity of the elections generally or specifically because the elections process has commenced and is in progress; the local government elections have not yet been held; the application is presented by way of a Fixed Date application instead of an elections petition,” court filings by Bulkan stated.
Bulkan is therefore contending that under the circumstances, he is entitled to dispute jurisdiction.
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