Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield’s attempts to block Commissioners Bibi Shadick and Sase Gunraj from exercising their constitutional power in the debate of a motion calling for his dismissal, have been described as ludicrous.
The Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall reminded that the plethora of legal cases that followed the 2018 No-Confidence Motion (NCM) established the independence of GECOM from outside interference. Moreover, he noted that it is a common practice whether at GECOM or in the National Assembly that those moving a motion are the ones who must debate it.
“To further illustrate the ludicrosity of this type of legal reasoning, I will render just one example: applying this curious logic to two No-Confidence Motions presented to the Clerk of the National Assembly against two sitting Ministers of the Government in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, neither the Leader of the Opposition nor any Member of the Opposition can speak or vote on these two motions by virtue of the principle of natural justice,” Nandlall said.
The AG noted that GECOM is insulated from “the direction or control of any other person or authority” by the Constitution. Nandlall cited Article 226 (1) of the Constitution of the Guyana, whereby GECOM is empowered to make rules and regulate the procedure of the Commission. According to the AG, it is important that logic and common sense follow the law.
The AG also noted that the Commission is empowered to regulate its own procedure. Moreover, Nandlall explained that Article 226 of the Constitution sets out GECOM’s process for determining questions and voting between the six Commissioners and the casting vote of the Chairman.
He further added that like every other Commission, “or indeed, entity, whose constituent members represent different and competing interests, decisions are made by votes. GECOM is no different… anyone, who has even a mere fleeting familiarity with how the business of an entity, whose decisions are made by votes, functions, would know that the decision-making process is initiated by the proffering of a motion.”
“This motion is normally seconded and then debated. Upon the conclusion of that debate, a vote is taken, and the decision emanating therefrom is usually expressed in a resolution,” Nandlall said.
The Attorney General also cited Article 161 of the Constitution, which empowers GECOM with responsibility for its officers in the Secretariat. Nandlall noted that Article 161 (A) (1) specifies that GECOM has disciplinary control over its staff.
“It must be elementary knowledge, even to lay men, that “disciplinary control” necessarily includes a power of dismissal. In the premises, no rational mind can therefore dispute GECOM’s legal power and authority to dismiss any member of the Secretariat staff.”
“It is common knowledge that the Chief Elections Officer (Lowenfield), the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (Roxanne Myers) and a Returning Officer (Clairmont Mingo) are all members of staff of the GECOM Secretariat,” Nandlall pointed out.
And according to the AG, GECOM has exercised its constitutional autonomy by resolving to have the GECOM’s trio’s fate at the Secretariat determined by a vote within the Commission. He noted that to then seek to block the movers of the motions from participating would be absurd and reminiscent of the 33 is not a majority of 65 faux pas.
In court documents seen by this publication, Lowenfield wants “an order restraining Commissioners Sase Gunraj and Bibi Shadick from participating as adjudicators in the hearing of the Motion for dismissal of the Applicant brought by the said Sase Ganraj and Bibi Shadick.”
He is also seeking “a declaration that the complainants, Sase Summaj and Bibi Shadick in the Motion for Dismissal of the Applicant cannot properly participate, hear and determine their own complaint against the Applicant.”
Further, he wants “a declaration that the Respondent having determined that there shall be a hearing of the Motion for dismissal of the Applicant brought by Commissioners Gunraj and Shadick is bound to provide the applicant with a fair hearing including the protections of the rules of natural justice.”
GECOM had unanimously decided to send Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo on leave, pending a debate on the motions brought by Gunraj, Shadick and Manoj Narayan calling for their dismissal. GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh was supposed to fix a date for this debate at the time Lowenfield decided to move to the court.
Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo are all before the courts for a number of electoral charges for their attempts to sway the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then ruling A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government. (Guyana Times)