How will Guyana Chief Justice Rule?

The CCJ ruled that elections must be held by September 18. That ruling cannot be defied unless the parliament votes to extend the time for elections. So Judge George must act like elections will be held by September 18. The CEO of Gecom, Lowenfeld, stated that house to house registration will go beyond October.

How will Guyana Chief Justice Rule?
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram

A case is before the Chief Justice (High Court) on an injunction to stop Gecom’s house to house voter registration that began two weeks ago in Guyana. The Chief Justice requested final submission and oral arguments on Friday. A decision is expected early next week.

The judge, Roxanne George, was asked to recuse herself from the case because the lawyer, Mr. Marcus, appearing on behalf of Gecom, believes she will be biased. He cites a press release that essentially says that the CCJ orders that elections must be held by September 18 unless there is a parliamentary extension. Lawyers say it is not understood why Marcus got into the case because Gecom did not meet to hire him as a lawyer or to request his appearance on behalf of the elections’ body.

It was Judge George who ruled in late January that the no confidence motion was valid and that 33 was a majority of 65. She was overruled by two judges in an appeal. The CCJ reversed that ruling agreeing with Judge George. But in another matter, Judge George ruled that President Granger did not violate the constitution when he unilaterally appointed Retired Justice James Patterson as Gecom Chair. The Appeal Court also agreed with her. But the CCJ overturned that verdict saying the President cannot unilaterally appoint Gecom Chair. The Chair must be chosen from a list of six nominees submitted by the Opposition Leader. Jagdeo submitted a list of six nominees last Friday and Granger selected Retired Justice Claudette Singh as Chair of Gecom.

There are two matters before the court: Recusal of Judge George from the case and injunction to stop house to house registration. The general consensus among legal experts is that the judge will not recuse herself from the case because she has not violated any rule or shown any bias. It is also the informed view of legal experts that the Judge will stop the house to house registration exercise.

The CCJ ruled that elections must be held by September 18. That ruling cannot be defied unless the parliament votes to extend the time for elections. So Judge George must act like elections will be held by September 18. The CEO of Gecom, Lowenfeld, stated that house to house registration will go beyond October. That will violate the court’s ruling and order. Judge George, a stickler for judicial orders, has no other choice but to stop the registration process for she will be viewed s being complicit in defiance of the CCJ order.

On the issue of bias, legal experts say Gecom’s lawyer, Marcus, has no standing in the court. Gecom has not met since the CCJ ruling on June 18 when the court ruled that the Gecom Chair was illegally appointed. He resigned on June 26. The CEO cannot act without authorization from Gecom’s full body (six Commissioners and the Chair); the commissioners and the chair make up Gecom. That body did not meet to discuss house to house registration since the June 18 ruling. House to house registration was approved in an earlier meeting. But it has been superseded by the CCJ ruling that orders elections by September 18. Neither Lowenfeld or Marcus has any standing to appear for Gecom, say lawyers.

If Judge George stops the registration process, it can be appealed but only if Gecom votes to appeal the ruling. The matter will come down to the vote of Retired Judge Claudette Singh in an equally balanced elections commission (3-3) between government and opposition. Judge Singh will not want to defy the CCJ order for she is also a stickler for complying with judicial orders. Judge Singh is likely to find a political solution – it is the only way. She does not want to take sides. She wants an way out of this impasse. She is likely to inform both the government and opposition that elections are not possible by September 18 and requests an extension for election date. Both sides will have to give in to a short extension.

Yours truly,

Dr. Vishnu Bisram