“Once there is evidence that the electoral process was compromised, then to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the Constitution, the Commission is constitutionally mandated to intervene to ensure public confidence in the electoral process.” – retired Justice Claudette Singh
In an affidavit filed in the High Court, retired Justice Claudette Singh has reaffirmed her commitment as Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission, (GECOM) to oversee a fair and transparent electoral process. Justice Singh has been listed as a respondent in the case filed by APNU +AFC candidate Ulita Moore to block a recount.
In her 22-page document laid over by her Attorney Kim Kyte, the GECOM Chair said that Article 161 (1) (b) of the Constitution provides clear and convincing authority for GECOM to take action it finds necessary and expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of the Constitution or any Act of Parliament.
Contrary to the application by Moore, the Chairperson stressed that once there is evidence that the electoral process was compromised, then to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of the Constitution or of any Act of Parliament, the Commission is publicly mandated to intervene to ensure public confidence in the electoral process.
She cited the recent ruling of Chief Justice Roxane George, which outlined that in the exercise of statutory duties (persons) must do so transparently to “engender transparency and accountability and thereby to ensure impartiality and fairness.”
Justice Singh noted that the Chief Justice had proffered several legal bases for which Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo should employ a procedure which is accepted as transparent and credible.
Since this is disputed, the affidavit by the chairperson outlined that decision of the recount was taken at the level of GECOM. She stated the full Commission, including the Chair, had agreed to the recount.
The former judge refuted Moore’s contention that there is any attempt by political leaders (President’s David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo) to usurp the functions of GECOM as an independent constitutional body.
She noted that the decision for a CARICOM High level team to oversee the process was simply the mechanism to ensure transparency.
“Section 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution which states that GECOM, “shall issue such instructions and take such action as appear to be necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance.
Thus, once there is evidence that the electoral process was compromised, then to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the Constitution, the Commission is constitutionally mandated to intervene to ensure public confidence in the electoral process.”
According to the sworn document, Justice Singh is adamant that the Commission has separate and independent powers under the Constitution to execute supervisory powers in respect to the electoral process.
“The intention of Parliament is to vest GECOM with independent supervisory powers to ensure fairness, transparency and impartiality of the electoral process. It is further submitted that Section 140 provides GECOM with a further protective shield to allow the body to act independently and unfettered to provide the nation with a credible electoral process.”
“This means the Commission can order a recount,” Justice Singh stated.
Against the argument that the issue can only dealt with by way of an elections petition, Justice Singh argues that the electoral process is not yet completed.
Justice Singh also contends that GECOM was in the process of exercising its constitutional supervisory functions when it was stopped by the Court.
She noted then Chief Justice Desiree Bernard in a 2001 case when she stated: “In the present volatile situation which pervades our country, no effort must be spared to assure everyone that the process was fair and impartial. Lingering doubts that hang like a sword of Damocles over the head of the Commission must be removed. Confidence in the electoral process must be restored.”
Therefore, the GECOM Chair said, the application to block the recount should be rejected and the Commission should be permitted to execute its constitutional role and functions with or without the CARICOM agreement.
However, speaking to reporters outside the Courthouse yesterday, Attorney-at-Law Neil Boston SC, who is representing the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, contends that after the High Court matter is settled, GECOM cannot recount the votes.
“They can’t do that. To do that is unlawful. There is an election court that will have to review all the evidence by the persons who were there to determine whether there was some unlawful act or omission which affected the results,” the lawyer stated.
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