By Rehanna Ramsay
The Court of Appeal has reaffirmed its decision which effectively clears the way for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to proceed with the nationwide recount of votes cast at the March 2, 2020 Regional and General Elections.
In releasing its consequential orders, the Appeal Court yesterday declared in writing that the order by the Full Court that the High Court did not have jurisdiction is set aside.
It was also ordered that the Appeal be allowed to the extent that the Guyana Elections Commission to abdicate or delegate its supervisory function over the elections process, more particularly, the recount of ballots.
Besides this, all other orders of the Full Court are reaffirmed and parties were instructed to pay their own costs.
In her ruling on Sunday, President of the Appeal Court Justice Dawn Gregory made it clear that “GECOM cannot farm out its responsibilities such as the management and supervision of general elections to anyone else.”
The appeals had stemmed from a decision by President David Granger to ask the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to supervise the counting of ballots for Region Four, after the tabulating process was halted several times amid accusations of fraud and interference.
Both the Coalition and Opposition parties have been accusing each other of interfering with the process while Monday made it five weeks since the elections.
The delays have been characterised by one court case after the next.
Justice Gregory, in the ruling handed down at the Appeals Court in Kingston, said, GECOM’s decision to act on an agreement by President David Granger and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, for CARICOM to supervise the recount was illegal.
“Any agreement in which supervision is removed from GECOM will be unlawful,” she said. The court relied on a GECOM press statement that spoke of the team’s intention to “supervise” the counting process.
The decision of the Appeal Court deemed the recount by GECOM in itself lawful. As such, the injunctions granted by High Court Judge, Franklyn Holder, barring GECOM from carrying such functions remains overturned.
The Court therefore decided against sending the case back to the High Court.
The matters stem from an application filed on behalf of APNU–AFC candidate supporter, Ulita Moore.
Moore, through her attorneys, had approached the Appeal Court in a bid to overturn a decision of the Full Court not to have her case heard by the High Court.
Moore’s request was for the Court to inquire into the constitutionality of a decision made by GECOM to have a high-level CARICOM team supervise a national recount of the votes cast in the March 2 elections.
The Full Court had, however, ruled that the High Court could not hear the application by Moore after a team of attorneys for the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, raised objections.
Jagdeo’s lawyers held that such matters should have been outlined in an elections petition.
As a result, the Appeal Court, which consisted of three judges, Justice Gregory, Justice Rishi Persaud and Justice Brassington Reynolds heard the appeal filed by Moore’s legal team.
Moore in her appeal contested that the Full Court erred in law by finding her case invalid in the context of jurisdiction.
Further in her ruling, Justice Gregory disagreed with the Full Court noting that, “if a party feels that GECOM is acting outside of its authority, then the court has jurisdiction to hear the case.”
Justice Reynolds was in agreement with the views expressed by Justice Gregory.
Justice Persaud, however, was in total agreement with the Full Court. In a dissenting decision, Justice Persaud noted that GECOM is mandated to ensure a fair and impartial election and is required to put in place mechanisms to achieve that purpose.
“This Court is of the view that the filing of judicial proceedings undermines the legislative process,” Justice Persaud added.
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