CCJ issues order to Guyana Elections Commission

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday afternoon issued an order requiring the Guyana Elections Commission and its officers and agents to take no step to prejudice the fair hearing of an application made to the court by Mohammed Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo.

“The steps prohibit, including but not limited to, declaring the results of the Guyana elections held on March 2, 2020 until the CCJ issued final orders following the hearing and determination of the questions raised before it in the said application,” the CCJ said in a news release.

The court explained that attorneys for Ali and Jagdeo applied to the court yesterday, for special leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana delivered on Monday .

The CCJ said it has ordered that all respondents to the application acknowledge service of the said application by 4:00 pm on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. “A case management conference on the matter filed is to be held on Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 3:00 pm via video conference with a view to a proposed hearing on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 at 10:00 am to determine the issues raised in the application, also to be heard via video conference in light of the global coronavirus pandemic,” the court said.

The CCJ ruling came after Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams said Monday’s ruling of the Court of Appeal in the disputed March 2 regional and general elections cannot be challenged at the CCJ, the country’s highest court.

“Article 177 clearly states that any decision made by the appeal court is final and equally, the CCJ Act Chapter 3:07, there is a provision that speaks to the Caribbean Court of Justice will not exercise jurisdiction or hear any matter from our Court of Appeal which is stated to be final,” Williams told the State-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper.

The three-member Court of Appeal by a majority decision ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear a motion regarding the election of a president, interpreting also that “more votes” cast in the election should in effect be “more valid votes” cast.

However, the court did not grant all the remedies that had been sought by the private citizen, Eslyn David, in her motion and also agreed to a stay of three days on the judgement.

David, who had named Williams, as well as Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, the Guyana Elections Commission and its chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, as respondents, had mounted her challenge before the appellate court pursuant to Article 177 (4) of the constitution.

The article states, in part, “The Court of Appeal shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a president in so far as the question depends upon the qualification of any person for election or the interpretation of this constitution…”

The main Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) said that it won the elections based on the national recount of votes that ended on June 9. But the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity has said that the polls were filled with irregularities and anomalies and wants the elections annulled.

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