LLA alteration…AG’s jurisdiction application has no merit – Nandlall tells court

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Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall and current AG Basil Williams

As the High Court proceedings over the Communities Minister’s changes to several Local Authority Areas (LAAs) continue, the Attorney General’s jurisdiction challenge to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-filed case was heard by Justice Gino Persaud on Thursday.

During proceedings, Anil Nandlall, who is the lawyer representing the applicant, Bibi Shaddick, argued that the learned Judge has no jurisdiction to hear the AG’s jurisdiction application.

Attorney General Basil Williams in his application to strike out the action filed by Bibi Shaddick had observed that it was made on the grounds that the applicant’s contentions amounted to allegations of irregularities and illegalities challenging the validity of the Local Government Elections, which have been gazetted to be held on November 12.

Williams further contended that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the application by Shaddick, on the premise that once allegations of irregularities and illegalities are raised after the election process has begun (Order made on July 18, 2018), the law requires that any such challenge must come after the elections are held and by way of an elections petition.

Nandlall however posited on Thursday that Williams’s application has no merit for the case to move forward on his position that the AG’s representative, Solicitor General Kym Kyte-Thomas has submitted to jurisdiction of the court by way of being part of the substantive case, whereby a timeline was set. The main case was scheduled to continue October 8 before Justice Persaud.

Nandlall attempted to make oral arguments ahead of the AG’s application being heard which prompted Williams to say that what his predecessor was doing was tantalum to an “ambush”. In response, Nandlall stressed that “time is a valuable resource in this process”.

Justice Persaud set out timelines for both sides to lay over their arguments on the challenge ahead of the main case. The AG was given until October 5 to file submissions while Nandlall’s response will be based on arguments of legal submissions.

The attorney opted against filing an affidavit in answer on the said grounds of the case lacking merit. Both parties will return to court on October 10, where the case will be amplified, according to Justice Persaud.

Just recently, Nandlall spoke out against the Attorney General’s Chambers seeking to strike the PPP’s challenge. The Party in fact termed Minister Bulkan’s changes ‘the gerrymandering of boundaries and constituencies’. Nandlall’s position is that Shaddick’s legal challenge is geared to correct issues that need to be corrected before the hosting of the Elections and not to block the overall Elections from happening.

Among Shaddick’s several orders of which she petitioned the court, is to bring the Communities Minister’s alterations into the conformity with Local Democratic Organs Act, Chapter 28:09.

In so doing, the Applicant wants to have Bulkan’s orders declared null and void. She is also seeking the State to pay her court costs in addition to seeking other orders, directions or writs as the court sees fit. Her grounds are that Bulkan failed to issue an order to identify the said boundaries under the Local Democratic Organs Act, making his actions null and void.

She meanwhile said that Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Keith Lowenfield went beyond his exercise of discretion, re-demarcating the existing constituency boundaries as outlined in the orders sought before the court.

The writ also outlines that the purported establishment of seven NDCs without complying with the provisions of the Local Democratic Organs Act is unlawful, ultra vires, null, void and of no effect. She said too that Lowenfield acted with authorisation in this regard, while adding that Minister Bulkan unilaterally made changes to the number of seats in 14 LAAs.

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