September 22 2019
Almost one month after he “partially appealed” the August 14th judgment by acting Chief Justice Roxane George on the removal of registrants from the Guyana Elections Commission’s national register, the Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams has filed for a stay of execution of the order issued with the ruling as he maintains that residency is a requirement for registration.
In the ruling, Justice George upheld the legality of the registration exercise but also declared that existing registrants could not be excised from a new voters’ list unless they were deceased or otherwise disqualified under Article 159 (2), (3) or (4) of the Constitution.
In summons filed on Friday, Solicitor-General Nigel Hawke and Assistant Solicitor-General Beverly Bishop-Cheddie requested on behalf of Williams “an order for an interim stay of execution of part of judgment and orders of the Chief Justice delivered on August 14 until the hearing and determination of the Summons filed.”
Also requested is an “Order for a stay of execution of part of judgment and orders…until the hearing and determination of the Appeal.”
The state has further requested an urgent hearing of the summons, arguing that it touches and concerns matters of national importance pertaining to General Elections in Guyana and the composition of the National Register of Registrants.
In its affidavit in support of the request, the state argues that it takes issue with the partial aspect of the ruling and posits that the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act of 1991 removed non-resident voting in Guyana so that the Preliminary List of Electors should only include an Ambassador or High Commissioner, a wife and child of either of these persons or a member of staff of an embassy and their family.
It adds that Justice George has not granted a stay of her order and that the High Court is empowered so to do providing it can satisfy the court that there exists an arguable case with a realistic prospect of success.
Further, according to the state, if the order is not granted the process of appeal would be rendered nugatory and irreparable harm can be caused to the electoral system as a process.
Williams has provided 16 points of appeal, including the argument that Section 6 of the Registration Act provides for “residency” during the period of a qualifying date as a requirement for registration.
Section 6 (2)(a) of the Act specifies that “it shall be lawful for the commission by order with effect from a specific date to authorise the registration of all persons in Guyana of the age of 14 years and over who at said date are resident in Guyana.”
Accordingly, the AG argued in his appeal that the judge erred and was misconceived in law when she found that “there is no law or laws in Guyana which set out additional requirements more particularly residence for purposes of Article 159 (2) ( c ) of the Constitution by failing to properly address her mind to sections 6 of the Act” and further that she failed to properly construe Section 6 of the Act in order to find that residency is a requirement of the Act for purposes of registration during the period of the qualifying date.
The judge had attached an order to the ruling which underlined that it would be unconstitutional to remove the names of registered persons “unless they are deceased or disqualified pursuant to Article 159(2) with the safeguards for removal of the names of persons pursuant to the National Registration Act, Chapter 19:08 to be strictly complied with.” At the time of the appeal, the AG had not requested a stay of the ruling. He has now done so.