Clint Chan Tack
Guyana’s Acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wilstshire says there is prima facie evidence that shows the procedure outlined in the Representation of the People’s Act was not adhered to and as such, that country’s general election results will remain on hold, pending a court hearing set for Tuesday.
Today marks one week since the people of Guyana voted in the general election and yet still, that country is still holding its collective breath awaiting results to see which party forms the next government. Tensions remain high and the country’s security forces remain on full alert.
According to a Guyana Times online report, George-Wiltshire ruled in a Sunday hearing that the court has jurisdiction to hear the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C) challenge, as it tries to get the returning officer for the hotley contested Demerara-Mahaica region, to verify the votes cast, before the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) can make a formal declaration as to the winner.
George-Wiltshire said prima facie evidence, presented by PPP/C attorney Douglas Mendes, SC, showed that the procedure outlined in the Representation of the People’s Act was not complied with. She therefore ruled that injunctions obtained last Friday by the PPP/C, to prevent GECOM from declaring a winner, remain in effect.
The ruling means that until the case has been determined, there will no swearing-in of Guyana’s new president. The case will be heard on Tuesday at 3 pm. Both the Opposition PPP/C and the ruling A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/Alliance for Change (AFC) coalition, led by President David Granger, have claimed victory at the polls.
The acting Chief Justice’s Sunday ruling did nothing to calm the tense atmosphere in the country’s capital, Georgetown. Tensions have been high after general and regional elections on March 2. On Saturday, an 18-year-old protester was shot dead by police in the West Berbice region. In a statement, Guyana Police said, “Police ranks whilst performing duty on the Cotton Tree Public Road, West Coast Berbice, came under attack by protesters which resulted in several ranks being hospitalised and their attacker dead.”
EVERY VOTE COUNTS
On Saturday, Caricom chairman, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, said she spoke to Guyana President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharat Jagdeo about the situation. She told them that Caricom stands ready to facilitate further dialogue and any actions that are necessary.
Mottley said preservation of law and order is paramount. She noted the killing of the protester and said, “that is one death too many.” Mottley also said, “We are very clear, every vote must be made to count, and transparently so. It is critical that good sense prevail.”
The ruling A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)/Alliance for Change (AFC) coalition and the PPP/C coalition have claimed victory in the elections. The PPP/C and international observer missions in Guyana have expressed concern over the declaration of results in the Demerara-Mahaica region, which overturned a lead for the PPP/C in the regional elections in favour of the APNU/AFC.
International observers said giving out partial results was illegal and implored the government to respect the rule of law. “We call on President Granger to avoid a transition of government which we believe would be unconstitutional as it would be based on a vote tabulation process that lacked credibility and transparency,” representatives from the United States, Britain, Canada and European Union said in a joint statement on Friday.
When contacted for a comment about acting Chief Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling, TT’s Communications Minister Donna Cox said, “I have no comment to make at this time.” In the House of Representatives on March 6, acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert said TT was not getting involved in the political situation in Guyana.
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