By: Jarryl Bryan
Guyana’s High Court on Tuesday heard the case brought by former National Toshaos Council (NTC) Vice Chairman Lennox Shuman, challenging the ongoing House-to-House process on the grounds that it will disenfranchise large sections of the population, including indigenous people.
During the hearing before acting Chief Justice Roxane George, Shuman’s lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin, argued strongly against the process. Datadin cited case law to argue that the order to start House-to-House— issued by former Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman Retired Justice James Patterson— was void.
According to Datadin, this is because Patterson was unconstitutionally appointed in the first place and specific orders he made, once brought to the court’s attention, could not stand up.
In addition, Datadin described the former GECOM Chairman’s decision as irrational, considering the fact that since the December 21 passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM), GECOM knew it ought to prepare for elections.
Datadin noted that at the time, and despite the possibility that they would have to carry out elections, GECOM moved towards House-to-House, despite a schedule that would have exceeded the time frame.
In addition, Datadin noted that GECOM had received a legal opinion from its legal officer, Excellence Dazzel, telling it that it would have to update the voters’ list and not create a new one.
Datadin informed the court that since Patterson should have been aware of the possibility that GECOM would have to hold elections in three months, but he chose to ignore that possibility and plough ahead with H2H Registration, his order was therefore unreasonable.
However, GECOM’s lawyer, Roysdale Forde, and Solicitor General Nigel Hawke endeavoured to counter this argument.
In Hawke’s case, he noted that GECOM was preparing for House-to-House anyway, and it is not a case where Patterson woke up one morning and decided to issue the order. Hawke also argued that this matter should be left to the political actors and that the courts should not interfere.
Meanwhile, Forde cited a section of the National Registration Act, which he claims contemplates House-to-House registration as the means to update the List of Electors. According to Forde, Datadin did not prove that the law does not allow for House-to-House.
In his rebuttal to Hawke’s submission, Datadin argued that they are not interfering with GECOM’s independence but rather, they are seeking to have GECOM act within the law, by holding elections in three months as specified by the Constitution.
The Chief Justice set August 23 as the date for her ruling on Shuman’s case.
Meanwhile, the Christopher Ram’s case against House-to-House will be ruled on today.