GEORGETOWN, Guyana– The main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Wednesday welcomed the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that threw out a ruling by the Court of Appeal with regards to the disputed March 2 regional and general elections.
“I hope President David Granger listened carefully to the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice and he now will know he has no excuse for the shenanigans that (Joseph) Harmon and others have been practising. There is no excuse because he has heard the Court made it clear the chief elections officer (Kevin Lowenfield) must act lawfully and they invalidated his fraudulent report,’ Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo said.
The five-member panel headed by its President, Justice Adrian Saunders, said that the Court of Appeal in Georgetown had no jurisdiction to hear the matter that had been filed by the private citizen Eslyn David.
“The finality clause in article 177(4) was inoperable and under the laws of Guyana this Court had jurisdiction to hear and determine the application by.. Ali and Jagdeo and to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal.
The CCJ, the country’s highest court, last week heard the appeal filed by Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali, the PPP/C presidential candidate seeking several reliefs, including an interpretation of the words ‘more votes are cast’ in Article 177(2)(b) of the Constitution of Guyana.
The Court of Appeal in its majority 2-1 decision late last month ordered that the words are to be interpreted as meaning ‘more valid votes are cast’. The Court also ordered the decision be stayed for three days. The applicants, who were added as respondents before the Court of Appeal, claim that the decision was wrong for many reasons, including that the Court of Appeal did not have the jurisdiction to hear and determine the Notice of Motion.
David had mounted her challenge before the appellate court pursuant to Article 177 (4) of the Constitution, which states “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….”
Jagdeo told reporters after the ruling that he and the party had been “vindicated’ in its decision to appeal the ruling by the Court of Appeal.
He said it had set out “clear guidance” to be followed by Lowenfield and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in the move towards releasing the official results of the disputed poll.
‘So we are extremely pleased that the Caribbean Court of Justice has set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana. We believed from the beginning that that decision of the Court of Appeal was perverse, we argued that they lack jurisdiction…and therefore they were acting outside of jurisdiction,” Jagdeo said.
“We have been vindicated in the sense that the Court of Appeal acted in excess of its jurisdiction. So we are extremely pleased that the Caribbean Court of Justice set aside the Court of Appeal ruling,” Jagdeo said, adding that the PPP/C is pleased with the decision to set aside Lowenfield’s report that disenfranchised more than 100,000 voters.
He said that Lowenfield now has ‘clear guidance (and) let us see if he will continue to act unlawfully or in accordance with the guidance of the Caribbean Court of Justice, a superior court.”
Jagdeo said he hoped GECOM would meet soon and “move this process speedily to a conclusion and that would end up in the declaration of the president.
“We hope that APNU (the ruling coalition A Partnership for National Unity) will not continue with its endeavours to block the speedy conclusion of the election process,” he said, adding that the international community would be observing the ongoing situation as it had been doing in the past.
But attorney Mayo Robertson, who was among the battery of lawyers representing David, said that the matter is still not fully completed
“The Court has stood by its previous position that it cannot tell GECOM how to do its job. All the Court has said is that the process must continue, we believe the Court of Appeal was wrong but the law in Guyana still stands and that law is the Chief Elections Officer prepares a report and it is only on the basis of that report that a declaration can be made.
“They invalidated the report that was presented earlier,…another report has to be presented and I would suggest to our friends that they keep the champagne on ice,” Robertson said, adding “yes we were disappointed the Court chose to take jurisdiction on this matter.
“Don’t take this for more than what it is, it is the highest court disagreeing with the application of 177(4) in this particular circumstance. They did not believe that my client Eslyn David was entitled to make an application at this stage of the process…and that is the essence of it,” he added.