The decision by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to have its elections recount operations be influenced by the Moses Nagamootoo-led COVID-19 Task Force has come in for stinging rebuke from various stakeholders.
Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall is adamant that; “in so far as the Task Force purports to regulate the work of the Commission, it is unlawful and unconstitutional.”
Qualifying his assertion, Nandlall said “I am fortified in my views by the crystal language of Article 226 (1) of the Constitution “…in the exercise of its functions under this Constitution, a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority. GECOM is one of the Commissions to which this Article applies”.
The former Legal Affairs Minister, under the previous People’s Progressive Party Administration, said “it is undisputed that the Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana. The doctrine of constitutional supremacy mandates that any law, by-laws, regulations, guidelines or any decision or action made by any public authority, or any Government or State agency which is inconsistent with and contrary to the Constitution, renders it unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void and of no effect.”
According to Nandlall, “as Mr David Granger so often reminds us, GECOM is an independent, functionally autonomous constitutional body, with exclusive authority over the conduct of all aspects of elections in this country. This means that no other person or organisation in this land has any role to play whatsoever in relation to any aspect of the electoral process, unless GECOM permits it.”
Additionally, Nandlall drew reference to the Judiciary as an institution that enjoys similar juridical corpus as GECOM and said that “in recognition of this legal reality, the Judiciary has crafted its own COVID-19 protocols.’
According to Nandlall, “it is in this same jurisprudential vein, that the Court of Appeal, recently, ruled that the high-level Caricom team cannot supervise the recount, since to do so, would be to usurp the functions, as well as, subvert the independence of GECOM, enshrined by the Constitution.”
He posited that “the Chairperson placed the cart before the horse when she sought guidance from the Task Force” and argued, “there is, absolutely, no obligation on GECOM to seek approval from any agency, in relation to the discharge of its functions regarding elections.”
PPP GECOM Commissioner, Sase Gunraj on Monday expressed similar sentiments, saying “we [GECOM] have no duty or no obligation to seek guidance or clarity or permission from the COVID-19 Task Force…it was always my position that what we needed to do is to inform them of the decision what we have taken and that we intend to implement”.