July 27 2019


Lennox Shuman

Lenox Shuman

Lenox Shuman, Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party, has filed an action against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Attorney General to challenge the validity of the order signed by former Chairman James Patterson for the conduct of the national house-to-house registration exercise.

Shuman is of the view that since the appointment of Patterson as the GECOM Chairman was found to be void by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), it effectively rendered the order made under his hands void also.

On June 18th, the CCJ declared the process used by President David Granger to unilaterally appoint Patterson as Chairman of the GECOM to have been flawed and unconstitutional.

Following the ruling of the Trinidad-based court, which is Guyana’s final appellate court, Patterson has stepped down, officially resigning from the post of Chairman of the Commission.

In his fixed date application, which comes up for hearing on August 9th before acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire SC, Shuman is seeking an order of certiorari quashing the order of June 11th , signed by Patterson, for  house-to-house registration to commence on July 20th.

Shuman argued that the setting of the date was, among other things, unlawful and made in bad faith.

The house-to-house registration exercise commenced last Saturday, July 20th.

Shuman (the applicant), is also seeking court costs and any other order which the court may deem just to grant.

Noting that the order prescribes the registration is to run until October 20th, Shuman argues through his attorney, Sanjeev Datadin, that given the fact government collapsed following a vote of no-confidence on December 21st, 2018, elections became due within three months thereof in accordance with the Constitution.

Owing to a lengthy litigation process by the government and opposition, which subsequently ensued, however, and was resolved only after a March 21st deadline by which elections ought to have been held, the CCJ in its ruling has issued consequential orders that effect be given to constitutional provisions in Article 106 (6) and (7) requiring that elections be held within three months of the rendering of its ruling.

The CCJ delivered its ruling on June 18th. In accordance with that court’s ruling, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been calling for elections to be held no later than September 18th—what would now be exactly three months from the date of delivery of judgments in the no-confidence challenge.

Article 106 (6) states, “the Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”

Further, 106 (7) adds, “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”

The opposition has been calling on government to hold elections no later than September 18th, while remaining resolute in its stance of not returning to Parliament to extend the attendant three-month deadline.

Government is, however, also resolute in its stance that house-to-house registration must be held ahead of any elections since the Official List of Electors expired on April 30th. It is that exercise to update that list that GECOM has indicated would conclude on September 20th—again beyond the three-month deadline for the holding of elections.

It is against this background that Shuman argues against the registration process.

Additionally, he contends that the laws have evolved to cater for continuous registration, while noting that there has not been any house-to-house registration since 2008, but that there have been valid lists for general elections in 2011 and 2015 and local government elections in 2016 and 2018.

Given those circumstances, Shuman is contending that the announcement of the date for the registration exercise to commence, by a Chairman unlawfully appointed, was made in bad faith.

Shuman stated in a release to the media on Thursday that the Chief Election Officer of GECOM Keith Lowenfield has said that the Official List of Electors can be sanitised by a simple claims and objections process.

According to the presidential hopeful, “at any given time, there are between 30,000 and 50,000” Amerindians working in various parts of Guyana in the mining and logging sector who stand to be denied their franchise by the house-to-house registration exercise.

According to him, “there is also a significant amount of our hard-working sisters and brothers from the coast who are engaged in the same sectors and will stand to be denied this very democratic right.”

Apart from Shuman challenging the order signed by Patterson, attorney and chartered accountant Christopher Ram has filed an action against the actual ongoing house-to-house registration exercise, which he argues is also unlawful, having regard to the CCJ’s rulings.

His matter comes up for hearing on August 2nd before the Chief Justice as well.

Meanwhile, Datadin has penned a letter to the Registrar of the High Court to complain that the August 9th date set for hearing of his client’s application falls outside the seven-day period during which such a matter should be heard.

According to Datadin, the fixed date application he filed was an “urgent with notice” one, in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), which stipulate that such a proceeding must be heard within seven days of filing, and must be served four days before the hearing.

Shuman’s application was filed on Thursday.

Counsel has pointed out that the August 9th hearing date that they have been given is more than 14 days away and falls outside what is stipulated by the CPR.

According to the letter, seen by this newspaper, Datadin has asked the Registrar that his client’s matter be fixed for a much earlier hearing date, in accordance with what the Rules require.