The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday filed a legal challenge in the High Court to, among other things, halt the Communities Minister’s alterations to the Local Authority Areas (LLA) which the Opposition has long contended were changed to skew the voting support within areas outlined as their strongholds.
This is even though the subject Minister, Ronald Bulkan, has maintained that everything he did was above board.
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall filed the Fixed Date Application (FDA) on behalf of PPP Guyana Elections Commissioner (GECOM) Commissioner, Bibi Shadick.
The Applicant filed judicial review proceedings in the High Court against decisions of named respondents, Communities Minister Bulkan and Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield.
Nandlall told reporters on Monday that the PPP’s action is not geared at delaying the entire Local Government Elections set for November 12 but rather; elections in the contested Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDC) could be rescheduled until the outcome of the court case.
In the writ seen by this publication, the Applicant is seeking a several orders which seek to bring the Communities Minister’s alterations into the conformity with Local Democratic Organs Act, Chapter 28:09.
In so doing, the Applicant is petitioning the court to have Bulkan’s orders declared null and void.
The Applicant made an application for an Order or Writ of Certiorari to quash Bulkan’s order of holding elections of seven NDCs without first issuing an Order under the Local Democratic Organs Act, to identify the NDCs by name, boundaries, and number of members.
These NDCs are Moruka/Phoenix Park; Kitty/Providence; Nile/Cozier; Lamaha/Yarrowkabra; Hauraruni/Yarrowkabra; Plegt Anker/Kortberaad; and Wyburg/Caracas.
The Applicant is also seeking two Orders of Certiorari against GECOM CEO Lowenfield. The first moves to quash the Commission CEO’s decision to fix the exterior boundaries in respect to the said seven NDCs, adding that the move was an abuse of power, illegal and constitutes a “usurpation of the statutory functions” of Minister Bulkan.
A second Certiorari order wants to quash his decision to demarcate constituency boundaries within the said seven NDCs on grounds that his actions did not first involve the consultations of electors and stakeholders which include political parties. In this regard, Shadick views Lowenfield’s actions as irregular or improper exercise of discretion, in bad faith, or having cited irregular consideration, adding that it has no legal effect since this would be a violation of Article 13 of Guyana’s Constitution.
More than that, Shadick is seeking an Order or Writ of Mandamus to compel Minister Bulkan, under the Local Democratic Organs Act, to establish the boundaries and number of members in respect to the Municipality of Mahdia and other eight other LLAs so that elections could be held by November 12. These would be Aranaputa/Upper Burro-Burro; Moruka/Phoenix Park; Kitty/Providence; Nile/Cozier; Lamaha/Yarrowkabra; Hauraruni/Yarrowkabra; Plegt Anker/Kortberaad; Wyburg/Caracas.
With regard to the aforementioned NDCs, the Applicant is seeking another Order of Mandamus for Lowenfield for him to hold consultations with stakeholders on the establishment of constituency boundaries within the said Local Authority Areas.
The Applicant’s final Order or Writ of Mandamus wants Lowenfield to also hold consultations in relation to the re-demarcation of constituency boundaries in Rose Hall and Rose Hall and 13 NDCs.
These are Evergreen/Paradise; Aberdeen/Zorg-en-Vlygt; Malgre Tout/Meerzorgen; La Grange/Nismes; Toevlugt/Patentia; Caledonia/Good Success; Woodlands/Farm; Mahaicony/Abary; Zeelust/Rosignol; Blairmont/Gelderland; Ordnance Fortlands/Number 38 Village; Adventure/Bushlot; and Numbers 52-74.
Shadick 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 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 Local Authority Areas.
The PPP has expressed its concern over the recent decision to declare Mahdia in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) a new town. In fact, the party believes that the changes might be a ploy by the coalition Government to have a stronger showing at Local Government Elections.
Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan however said on Monday afternoon that he was not fazed by the PPP’s legal suit. He told reporters that everything that was executed was done lawfully and above board, signalling that he was not too concerned about the PPP filing its motion.
“They’re on record saying that the Minister has the authority to determine the size of Councils and that it all I did. I don’t see why I should be fazed because I’m acting lawfully and legally,” he said.
The Minister also rejected the PPP’s claims that he violated Article 13 of the Constitution as outlined in Shadick’s suit. This section speaks to inclusionary democracy.