OPINION: Nothing stopping GECOM from going ahead with declaration

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GECOM Chair (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh

The following is an opinion piece by Vishnu Bisram

 

The court unanimously ruled that challenges to the actions of GECOM can only be entertained in an election petition. The CCJ, and subsequently the High Court, had similarly ruled earlier this month.

With the appeal out of the way, nothing stops GECOM from going ahead after Emancipation Day and proceeding with the declaration.

In fact, the nation wants this matter to end quickly. People are fed-up and angry that the declaration got tied up in court. This matter has been going on for too long. Guyanese I conversed with in the diaspora and in Guyana say they are very frustrated over the lack of a declaration of the outcome of the elections. Interviewers I employed to query opinions of voters on the election impasse have also found a nation very frustrated. They praise the Chair’s patience and respect for the judicial process in not making a declaration while the matter was in court.

She has put up with the coalition’s shenanigans for too long. She has withstood attacks courageously. And that private criminal charge against her is an abuse of the court. It will not stand scrutiny. The Chair has done her job professionally.

With the CoA discharging the petition, the Chair now has an opportunity to address people’s frustrations by making the declaration. And Guyanese feel very confident she would proceed with a declaration notwithstanding the request for leave to appeal. Once a declaration is made, those who feel aggrieved can file an election petition to resolve any problems with the count and/or Recount.

Lawyers point out that the CoA did not prevent a declaration. The Appeal is dismissed. No orders were handed by the court. In addition, in the latest CCJ ruling, she was instructed to go ahead and make the declaration of the results using the Recount numbers.

The decision was definitive. That decision cannot be undone by the High Court or COA, or filing any case that would simply be considered as res judicata.

Any filing of a court matter to reverse the Recount Order or the CCJ ruling would fail. That filing would be considered as frivolous and vexatious. It would be an abuse of the judicial process.

In light of the above, the Chair can proceed to make the declaration. Since the GECOM CEO has refused to follow the directive of the Chair to report the final correct count, his action is insubordinate. That is legal ground for termination at any job, inclusive of being a Government-appointed officer. Lowenfield must be fired, and replaced by someone to make the declaration.

The unanimous ruling of the Court of Appeal is not surprising. The CoA has no jurisdiction on setting aside the Recount or on intervening with how GECOM handles the CEO. Any other ruling would have been another embarrassment, as the CCJ would have slapped it down.

But, as happened before, there is likely to be an appeal. As pointed out, there were some fourteen incarnations to stop or delay the declaration. An appeal would be another abuse of the process, and would only tie up the declaration.

It is not clear whether Justice Rish Persaud agreed to a stay, but he disappointed some who thought he meekly caved in to a stay that had no standing. If he didn’t, he should have objected as Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry did on the record. She gave a very strong judgment, backed by case studies. Kim Kyte-Thomas is also right to take a different position now on the declaration when another appeal is before the court.

People are in agreement with her that the work of GECOM cannot forever be hindered by the court. The saga and circus must come to an end, or else we will be the laughing stock of the world.

There is no coercive order from the court. The stay of the judgment, with no order, ends at 2pm on Friday. So the Chair can proceed expeditiously with the declaration, using someone other than Lowenfield, who is facing criminal charges, to prepare the results. The Chair will see her likeability and favourability ratings climb astronomically.