GECOM cannot remove names from National Register of Registrants – CJ orders

first_imgH2H legal challenge…”other options” can update voters’ listChief Justice Roxane George has ruled that the ongoing House-to-House Registration is not unconstitutional, but noted that it is unconstitutional for qualified persons to be removed from the list.Former Attorney GeneralAnil NandlallChief Justice Roxane GeorgeAt the High Court on Wednesday, the Chief Justice did not grant any of the orders sought by Christopher Ram, who had challenged the constitutionality of the House-to-House Registration and wanted the court to compel the holding General and Regional Elections by September 18.In her ruling, Justice George concluded that the House-to-House exercise being conducted is not unlawfully or unconstitutional. However, the Court did note that it is unconstitutional for qualified persons to be removed from the list if they are not in the jurisdiction or not at their residence during the registration exercise. She further stated that only deceased persons and those otherwise disqualified under Article 159 (2), (3), or (4) are to be removed.Pointing out that the “right to vote and the right to be registered to vote are sacrosanct”, the High Court Judge said “residence requirements from citizens is no longer a qualification for registration”.Ram’s lawyers, who included former Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran, had argued in the application that the current registration exercise will disenfranchise many Guyanese who are already on the list.Furthermore, the Chief Justice had noted that while it is not up to the Court to determine whether House-to-House should be held, it is not the only option available to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to update the list. To this end, the Court further noted that it is up to the Elections Commission to determine a way forward within the confines of the constitutional provisions.“The Court did not agree with submissions from the CEO (Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield) that House-to-House is necessary… GECOM may have to consider other options… GECOM cannot operate as in a normal elections cycle,” she said, adding that it has to take into consideration the December passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) which has been validated by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).In fact, both Nandlall and SC Ramkarran told reporters after the decision that this aspect of the judgement is significant, since it meant that House-to-House is not mandatory, and more importantly, not the only option for GECOM to revise the voters’ list.“The Court pointed out very emphatically and very clearly that GECOM must now determine which one of the two courses of action it will chose, having regards to the timeframe that are available and that have become exigent upon the passage of a No-Confidence Motion. The Court endorsed our argument that the list can be refreshed with a suitable Claims and Objections period; so the ball is now in GECOM’s court to determine which one of the two courses it will choose, and one will obviously lead to unconstitutionality as the CJ pointed out,” Nandlall contended.But Lowenfield’s lawyer, Roysdale Forde, told reporters that aspect of the decision dealing with the removal of persons from the voters list is flawed.“I believe that it is a serious ground, a serious flaw in the decision and I would advise my client to appeal. The issue was never raised as part of the pleadings in the documents,” Forde contended.Similar sentiments were raised by Attorney General Basil Williams, who said that this is something GECOM will have to look at. In fact, GECOM’s attorney, Senior Counsel Stanley Marcus, told reporters that he will be advising the Elections body today on the way forward.The Claudette Singh-headed Commission will be holding its first statutory meeting today since the appointment of the new Chair. This meeting is expected to yield the Commission’s position on the way forward.Nevertheless, another significant decision handed down by the Chief Justice on Wednesday had to do with the holding of General and Regional Elections.Ram had sought a conservatory order compel the CEO and others to host early elections on or before September 18, 2019 in compliance with the constitutional provisions in Article 106 (6) and (7) and the rulings of the CCJ.However, Justice George, in her ruling, posited that the High Court cannot name a date for when elections ought to be held, especially since this was not done by the country’s highest court – the CCJ.“It is not the role of the [High] Court to establish when elections are to be held… The CCJ did not and could not name a date for when elections are to be held… therefore, this court cannot decisive a date when elections ought to be held,” the Chief Justice ruled.But that aspect of the decision did not sit well with the lawyers representing Ram. In fact, Nandlall told reporters that they will appeal this, since there just cannot be no date for when early elections are to be held, especially since the passage of the NCM was validated, thus, triggering constitutional provisions that caters for early polls.“It cannot be open-ended. The CCJ judgement could not have meant elections will never be held unless Parliament agrees [to an extension of the elections date by two-thirds of all sitting Member of the National Assembly]. Suppose Parliament does not agree? There is always a timeframe implied; the Constitution must be obeyed at its earliest convenience. And so in relation to that, respectfully, I am not impressed with that aspect of the ruling and that certainly will excite the review of an appellate tribunal. We must have a second opinion…,” Nandlall declared.Furthermore, during Wednesday’s ruling, Justice George also dismissed the applications filed by AG Williams for the Court to dismiss Ram’s challenge, and one filed on behalf of the Chief Elections Officer for the Chief Justice to recuse herself from hearing the case.The Court awarded costs in the sum of $500,000 to Lowenfield and other parties against whom Ram’s case was filed. However, both GECOM and the AG will have to pay 75% and 80% of that sum for the cases of the applications they filed that were dismissed.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *