CCJ ruling on Guyana elections recount case set for 3PM today

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Caribbean Court of Justice

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will today at 15:00h deliver its judgment in the case of Mohammed Irfaan Ali et al v Eslyn David et al.

The Court would first rule on whether it has jurisdiction to adjudicate the case and if it finds that it has jurisdiction, then it would rule on whether the Court of Appeal exceeded its jurisdiction when it inserted the word “valid” into the Constitution of Guyana and heard what was described as a “premature” elections petition.

The appeal was filed in the names of People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo and Presidential Candidate, Dr Irfaan Ali and named David; Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield; the GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh; GECOM; and Attorney General Basil Williams as respondents. Several persons sought the court’s leave to be added to the case. These are Mark France – A New and United Guyana; Daniel Josh Kanhai – The New Movement; Lenox Shuman – Liberty and Justice Party; Shazaam Ally – The Citizen’s Initiative; and Abedin Kindy Ali – Change Guyana.

During the case management hearing on June 25, the CCJ granted special leave for the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition to join the proceedings.

On July 1, the CCJ held the marathon virtual hearing of the substantive case where the PPP/Civic sought several reliefs stemming from the Court of Appeal’s ruling in the Eslyn David vs Chief Elections Officer et al. David had sought several reliefs under Article 177 (4) of the Constitution and among them was the question as to whether “more votes are cast” in Article 177 (2) (b) can be determined as “more valid votes”.

In a 2-1 judgement, Appeal Court Judge, Justice Dawn Gregory and High Court Judge, Justice Brassington Reynolds found that more votes are cast meant more valid votes cast. By ruling in that fashion, the duo effectively disagreed with Appeal Court Judge, Justice Rishi Persaud who found that the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to entertain the case.

The Court also ruled that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has the responsibility to determine the validity of the votes.

This interpretation of the Constitution caused the PPP/C, an added respondent to the David matter, to move to the CCJ hours after the Appeal Court handed down its decision. The CCJ handed down interim orders preventing Chief Elections Officer Lowenfield, from presenting his statutory report to GECOM Chair Singh. This effectively barred GECOM from going ahead and declaring the results of the March 2 General and Regional Elections.

In their approach, for relief, to the CCJ, Ali and Jagdeo argued that the Appeal Court erred by interpreting Article 177(2)(b) by modifying the provision to include the word “valid” in circumstances where the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction so to do.

It was highlighted in the court document that “the request for the urgent intervention of the Caribbean Court of Justice is justified and necessary in order to prevent a clear and substantial miscarriage of justice and irreparable harm that will otherwise be done to the people of Guyana and the very institution of democracy in Guyana unless special leave to appeal is granted”.