GECOM’s decision to move ahead with house-to-house registration shows utter disregard for High Court, CCJ – Nandlall

Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield and Roxanne Myers, Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO).
Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield and Roxanne Myers, Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO).

The decision by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to proceed with the house-to-house registration process, while legal proceedings are pending, is a complete and utter disregard for both the local High Court and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

This is according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who on Tuesday said that one gets the clear impression that GECOM is acting with the specific intention of defeating and frustrating orders, which these courts may make. He added that clearly, this is not conduct becoming of a constitutional agency.

“It is no secret that this house-to-house registration exercise will cost millions, if not billions of taxpayers’ dollars and if it is found to be unlawful, or, is halted by the court rulings, I hope that those who are engineering it will be held responsible for the public monies expended and, indeed, wasted. This may include criminal and civil proceedings, personally, against those responsible,” the attorney said.

Legal proceedings were filed challenging the legality and constitutionality of the house-to-house registration, and came up before the acting Chief Justice Roxane George on May 14, 2019, and the case was adjourned to June 26.

However, even as the case is pending, GECOM has issued public notices and advertisements, which suggest that GECOM is proceeding at break-neck speed with the house-to-house registration process.

Delay in CCJ ruling

On May 8, 9 and 10, a bench of five Justices from the CCJ heard submissions from all parties in the No-confidence Motion and GECOM cases.

The crucial decision was on the calculation of what constituted a “majority” to give effect to Article 106 (6): “The President and the Cabinet shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of majority of all elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” That time has already elapsed, and another week is about to expire.

Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall

During the hearings, Justice Adrian Saunders had asked the attorney representing GECOM, Stanley Marcus: “If the vote of no-confidence was valid, and if Parliament ought to be dissolved, and if the parties don’t agree to extend the three-month period, then we have a choice between a situation where with each passing day beyond that three-month period a dagger is being thrown at the Constitution every day; and, on the other hand, having an election which is a little bit less than perfect. Now, which of those two options is better for democracy?”

Marcus allowed that democracy could not be sacrificed for “speed”, upon which Justice Saunders cited the constitutional alternative of Article 106 (7), which reads: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly, agree, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”

However, even as Guyana awaits the CCJ judgement, GECOM-sponsored advertisements about house-to-house registration have sprung up. According to GECOM Commissioner, Sase Gunraj, going ahead with the exercise is flouting the law.