2015 Elections petition: Constitutional remedy for electoral breaches being undermined by Judicial sloth- Jagdeo

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…says party has applied to the Court of Appeal to hear matter expeditiously

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has called out the Judiciary for the sloth at which the 2015 elections petition that it filed in the High Court is being heard.

File photo: Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the PPP/C Dr Bharrat Jagdeo 

Addressing a large gathering at Enmore in observance of the Enmore Martyrs on Wednesday, Jagdeo told his supporters that the Judiciary needs to understand the signal it is sending Guyanese if it does not act in an expeditious manner on these matters, particularly the election petition.

“We are not asking for a particular outcome, we’re asking for expeditious hearing of these matters. But if the Judiciary tolerates this sloth, then they will be violating, undermining a constitutional remedy to rigs and flaws in the electoral process,” Jagdeo told a cheering audience.

The former Head of State was critical of the Judiciary, stating that the delays are causing people to lose confidence in a judicial remedy to rig the elections by keeping it languishing there. He argued that the law stipulates that this matter must be heard continuously, but that has clearly not been the case.

Jagdeo also used the opportunity to remind supporters that elections were rigged post 1992 and there is a possibility that it could happen again.

He referred to a case in Barbados where a citizen was denied the constitutional right to vote. The matter was nevertheless appealed and went as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which incidentally handed down a ruling in the citizens’ favour, and that individual was allowed to vote.

“Ours has been languishing for three years. So, in this case with the (Guyana Elections Commission) GECOM Chairman, using the precedence in Barbados, we have applied to the Court of Appeal to hear this matter expeditiously because it has an impact; a bearing on the elections in the future,” he added.

The petition filed on behalf of the PPP/C seeks to challenge the validity of the outcome of the 2015 General and Regional Elections. Following the outcome of May 2015 elections, the party underscored that the elections were not held in conformity with the Constitution of Guyana.

The matter, which was filed in the name of PPP/C parliamentarian, Ganga Persaud, essentially requested a recount of all ballot boxes for the last elections and fresh elections were also called for. He had claimed that the elections were “unlawfully conducted” and that the results of the elections were affected.

He cited procedural errors and instances of fraudulent and/or suspicious actions during the elections. Unrest, fake Statements of Poll (SOPs) and multiple voting were among the reasons for the petition. Further, the presence of ‘huge mobs’ at several polling stations and other strategic places, particularly in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), were also cited by the party as another cause for intimidation and fear.

But the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield had described the petition as frivolous and vexatious. He said too that the petition discloses no reasonable cause of the action and asked for it to be struck out.

But before demitting office, former Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang overruled Lowenfield’s summons to have the petition struck out. Justice Chang had ruled that the summons to strike out the petition was premature and therefore the court should proceed in hearing it.

Attorney representing Lowenfield, Roysdale Forde, had filed an appeal and further disclosed that Chang erred in law when he failed to direct his mind to the summons and to apply the proper principles applicable to the striking out of the petition.

Forde said the Judge erred in law when he made a finding and determination with respect to Article 163 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana and its relationship with Section 42 of the National Assembly Validity of Election Act, Chapter 1:04 without affording the Appellant an opportunity of responding to the said finding.

The matter was last heard in 2017 before acting Chief Justice Roxane George and Justice Franklin Holder.

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