Oct 23, 2020 News
– To hear preliminary issues on November 24
Kaieteur News – Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire is expected to full trial of the two election petitions filed by the main opposition, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC). However, this is expected after she hears arguments on preliminary issues raised in the matter on November 24, 2020.
During the Case Management Conference (CMC) held in relation to the matters at the Georgetown High Court yesterday, the Chief Justice (CJ) told attorneys involved in the case via Zoom that the Court will hear “a full blown trial of the petitions,” filed to challenge the March 2, 2020 elections. The judge however, did not give a date for the hearing of the substantive matter.
She instead noted that the Court will hear preliminary matters relating to the case after Douglas Mendes, SC of Trinidad who is leading the legal team for the People’s Progressive Party Civic(PPP/C) raised an issue of his clients—President Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo not being served on time in accordance with the prescribed Court rules. As a result of this purported breach, the Lawyer held that the Court should proclaim the petitions as null and void.
As such, the CJ directed that the lawyers have the submissions for that application filed and served by November 20, 2020 while applications for elections documents must be filed on or before December 4, 2020. She noted that the Court will also meet again on November, 24, 26, and 30 to hear brief oral submissions in relation to an application to by Mendes on the issue of late service. On that point, the CJ noted that the former President David Granger was also served late. He was served on September 25 when he should have received the document five business days after the petition was filed on September 15.
In addition to not scheduling a date for hearing the substantive case of the election petitions, the CJ determined the two petitions will be heard together. This determination was made in response to a request by attorney in the second petition filed to challenge the outcome of the March 02, 2020 elections, Mayo Robertson.
Robertson had asked that the petitions be heard separately since the matters dealt with distinct issues as the regards the conduct of the elections. The lawyer explained that the 2nd elections petition focuses on the allegations of irregularities and misconduct leveled at the Guyana Elections Commission, (GECOM) whereas the 1st election petition filed on behalf of the opposition seeks to the challenge the outcome of the polls based the issues as it relates to validity of Order 60 of 2020 under which the recount was held and the validity of Section 22 of the Election Law lections Law Amendment Act (ELAA) which that order was created.
“There are the matters of widespread voter impersonation, widespread issues with documentation and a flawed voters list among other things…We are saying that as a result, the elections were not held in accordance with the constitutional requirement by GECOM which required by law to host free fair and credible elections. And we are going to ask that Court set aside the results of the elections and vitiates the entire process,” the lawyer explaining… adding that he expects to call several witness to substantiate the claims of the affidavit supplied to the Court.
Robertson noted however could not give a precise number of the witnesses he is expected to call. “I cannot give an exact number for fear of being bound by that figure… In addition, there is still some fine tuning to be done as it regards which witnesses will testify about what,” Robertson attempted to explained.
The Chief Justice did not hide her disapproval at over Robertson’s lack of preparedness.
“Well,” she said “I am surprised by that, Mr. Robertson because having filed the petition on the 15th of September and its very voluminous content, one would expect that you would at least know how many witnesses you would be calling to the trial.”
Further, Justice George- Wiltshire also told the attorney that her decision to hear the matters together is based on the fact that the issues laid out in the petitions are almost identical.
“Taking a different route but wanting the same result does not make the matters much different,” she stated.
At the interim, the CJ granted application for Attorney General Anil Nandlall to formally join both petitions, given his role under the constitution as the intervener of the State.
Nandlall will be joined by Attorney Prithima Kissoon, Chevy Devonish and Raeanna Clarke in the matter. Other lawyers engaged in the case include former Attorney General Basil Williams S.C who appeared on behalf of former President David Granger and the APNU+AFC Coalition; GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj who told the Court that the Commission has not retained Counsel but said it intends to defend itself during the proceedings; and Lawyers – Devindra Kissoon and Sanjeev Datadin, led by Senior Counsel Mendes appeared on behalf of Bharrat Jagdeo as representative for PPP/C.
Meanwhile, the Attorneys appearing on behalf of the defendant on the first petition are Trinidad Senior Counsel John Jeremie, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, Raphael Trotman and Olayne Joseph. Senior Counsel Rex McKay, Darren Wade, Mayo Roberson, Khemraj Ramjattan, Gary Best and Geeta Chandan-Edmond are appearing for the defendant in the second petition.
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