The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) applauds the efforts of the CARICOM delegation to assist Guyana during this process, notwithstanding the legal electoral challenges resulting in the CARICOM delegation leaving Guyana, having not been able to conclude its mission. CARICOM Chairperson and Prime Minister of Barbados Hon. Mia Mottley, as a member of the legal fraternity, and other CARICOM leaders, we are confident, would appreciate the legal process being upheld. This is indicative of their expression of continued commitment to Guyana, and we encourage them to continue to keep an eye on our legal progress.
In the process of this legal pursuit which every party is entitled to as a means of adjudicating their grievances, GTUC asks this nation and our political leaders to lend full support to our judiciary in its deliberations. The judiciary of Guyana has distinguished itself as a credible source of power in this country, well respected in the Caribbean jurisdiction and further afield. Our legal minds, across the spectrum, have more than demonstrated capacity at all times to navigate this process or legal resolution.
This new challenge to the recounting of votes is the first of three legal challenges not filed by the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). Altogether, these added to other delays making this the longest election process in the history of Guyana. This is not for us to be proud of, but neither is it a shame. What it demonstrates is a commitment by both parties to operate in a lawful manner since both parties are entitled to their respective cases being heard in a court of law. That, of itself, is a win for democracy and we must all be proud, even as we anxiously await the end.
When law and order trumps individual, partisan and lobbying interests, Guyana wins.
GTUC calls on all parties concerned to:
· Respect the right of both parties to exercise all legal means such as injunctions filed on their behalf since this will allow a Court to give guidance and pass judgment at any stage of the process where there is dispute.
· Recognise GECOM Chairperson Claudette Singh S.C. is on record repeatedly stating that in the execution of the electoral process, she will be guided by the Constitution and Laws of Guyana and Judicature.
– GECOM, on 17th March, in an effort to facilitate a recount in a duly constituted and legal manner, sought the advice on the “legal ramifications” to recount the votes from Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Charles Fung-A-Fatt-S.C. (Guyana Chronicle, 18th March 2020 ‘Chief Parliamentary counsel advises GECOM against gazetting order for recount’.)
– Such advice was necessary because, according to GECOM’s press release (17th March 2020), the body thought “it is necessary for all the legal issues to be properly addressed including the gazetting of the process as requested by the high level CARICOM delegation” to give effect to the Aide-mémoire signed by Messrs. Granger and Jagdeo in the presence of CARICOM Secretary-General, H.E Irwin LaRocque, to pave the way for the recount.
PPP/C representative Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall’s contribution to the decision for gazetting argued against GECOM seeking same, pushing instead for them to go ahead with the count. As per Nandlall, “If you also look at Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act you will see that GECOM has a wide array of powers even to make orders, even to override legislation.” His position runs contrary to the respected legal advice provided by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.
Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Charles Fung-A-Fatt-S.C, advised accordingly:
– The “provision that the Order is seeking to make has the effect of amending Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act and would be ex post facto. And that ‘passing the order would be making a retrospective law and that would affect the vested rights of a person under the Representation of the People Act,’
– “An Order cannot be made under this provision because any instructions or action that the commission takes must be in compliance with the Act. This provision empowers the commission to act administratively through an interpretation of the law as it now stands and does not empower the commission in a law-making capacity to modify the law.”
The nation is reminded CEO Keith Lowenfield sought to implement an administrative solution that could have prevented this current situation when he suggested the parties bring their Statements of Poll and do the verification, and “If, at the end of the day, that doesn’t work, the CEO will be involved with his statement to have a resolution to the issue.” This appeared not to have been pursued.
The situation, as it currently exists, is one where patience must be exercised as all concerned parties utilise lawful means of resolving their contentions. An injunction is before the court and will be heard on Friday, 20th March. GTUC expects the rule of law to obtain and be respected in no different manner than it has been so far in adjudicating our political and election disputes.
Sacrificing Guyana’s peace and stability is not a price that any political party should ask our people to pay. It is not a price that any individual should seek to pay, given that the parties we all represent have access to the Law Courts and peaceful resolution. As a people, we must condemn political efforts from any quarter to derail or discredit the judicial system and process to arrive at a resolution.
Those who proclaim ‘uprightness’ and ‘decency’ should be held to the standards they project. They must respect the law and call on all parties to follow its mandate. Anyone seeking extra judicial means, whether peaceful or otherwise, to resolve our difference cannot be committed to democratic practices, though they may voice this. People of Guyana, let us not be fooled.
A fight for democracy is about having the election conducted and concluded within the parameters of the laws. We have numerous examples throughout the world, and as recently as 2000 in the USA, that these can ultimately be determined in a court of law not merely by individuals, public relations campaigns and groups with different interests. It is a fight for the rule of law to be upheld. We determine this in a court of law and abide by the decisions therein.
Finally, a resolution of our differences, if not legally pursued, will and can result in a Guyana that our children would not benefit from. We must demand full compliance with all laws and respect for the court’s decision if we are to protect this nation and our peace, now and in the future.
Guyana Trades Union Congress
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