Local courts of law should exercise their authority to make orders, enforcing the rulings and the consequential orders made by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on the No Confidence Motion.
This was the assertion of Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, during a press conference yesterday at his Church Street office.
The former President made this statement in light of recent developments at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). In a recent publication in the Official Gazette, the commission announced that it will start house-to-house registration from tomorrow – Saturday, July 20, 2019. The exercise is set to conclude on October 20.
The Opposition Leader is contending that Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, is acting in contempt of the CCJ. But he has provided that the solution to that could be right at the local courts.
He referred to the agreement Guyana signed, establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice as Guyana’s highest court of appeal. Guyana is one of the founding members of the Court and is one of the few countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) over which the court has appellate jurisdiction.
In Article 26 of the agreement, titled ‘Enforcement of Orders of the Court’, it is stated that, “The Contracting Parties agree to take all the necessary steps, including the enactment of legislation to ensure that: (a) all authorities of a Contracting Party act in aid of the Court and that any judgment, decree, order or sentence of the Court given in exercise of its jurisdiction shall be enforced by all courts and authorities in any territory of the Contracting Parties as if it were a judgment, decree, order or sentence of a superior court of that Contracting Party”.
“So our local court and authorities must enforce the judgment of the CCJ which was very, very explicit.” The Opposition Leader said.
He went on to read the rest of that Section of the agreement, “(b) the Court has power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any document, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of court that any superior court of a Contracting Party has power to make as respects the area within its jurisdiction.”
Jagdeo stressed that it is necessary to remind the public of the local courts’ authority, since the decision of GECOM was made to have House-to-House initiated on July 20, 2019.
He said, “It was GECOM, through its lawyer, that said to the Caribbean Court of Justice – because they were party to the proceedings – that, if they pursue House to House registration, the earliest elections could be held is December 25, 2019. And the Court took that into consideration.”
He added that the President of the Court, Justice Adrian Saunders, asked the government’s lawyer during the hearings whether it is suggesting a defiance of the Constitution.
“I remember Justice Saunders holding up the Constitution of Guyana and saying ‘What do you suggest? That we ignore the Constitution of Guyana?’ to the lawyer. That is what the President of the CCJ said to the lawyer… There was no reply.”
He said that the Court was clear in its Consequential Orders made on July 12 that elections are to be held within the three-month period outlined in the Constitution.
“And GECOM must comply with the Constitution. That’s clear as daylight in the order which was issued on July 12.”
He said that the Commission is embarking on a process that it knows will go way past three months.
“This would take six months, maybe, if we’re optimistic. And much longer, we believe, if you embark upon House-to-House Registration.”
Jagdeo’s suggestion to cleanse the Official List of Electors (OLE) is much shorter than House-to-House.
“They must prepare for a period of claims and objections,” he said, “which would allow those who are not on the list, for whatever reason, to get on the list through a process of cleansing of the list, and also for people to effect other transactions like transfers, correcting their names etc. That is what GECOM must be doing now in accordance with the Constitution.”
The PPP has become so incensed with the Commission’s decision to start House-to-House on July 20 that, in a statement late yesterday, it called on the Guyanese public to protest the CEO’s “unlawful act”.
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