[December 21, 1997]
I read with interest of the secret swearing in of Mrs Janet Jagan as Executive President of Guyana. Whoever advised Mrs Jagan to do so, I submit, attempted to pervert the course of justice.
It was generally known that the opposition parties were contemplating taking legal action to have the elections declared null and void, but were unable to do so until all of the ballots were counted and verified and a winner declared by the Elections Commission. It is my opinion that the behaviour and actions of the Chairman of the Elections Commission were unlawful and not in accordance with the Constitution, when he unilaterally and prematurely declared Mrs Jagan to be President, and secretly had her sworn in as such. Nothing in the Constitution gives the Chairman the right to act on his own and outside the Elections Commission to declare a winner of the election and to declare a person as President. It is my opinion that all of the votes cast had to be counted and verified before the Elections Commission could declare a winner.
Wade and Bradley on Constitutional and Administrative Law writes. "If elections are to be conducted according to law there must be effective machinery for investigating alleged breaches of the law and for imposing appropriate sanctions." In England the law with respect to electiony petitions is now governed by Part 111 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. In Guyana it is governed by article 163 of the Constitution.
The Chairman should not have sought to avoid the possibility of a count injunction by a unilateral declaration.
When the two marshals of the high court attempted to serve the order nisi on the respondents they were restrained by Mrs Jagan's security personnel and prevented from doing so; it is my opinion that their behaviour and actions amount to contempt of court and I hope appropriate actions are taken against them.
As a lawyer and senior counsel the Chairman of the Elections Commission was an officer of the court and has an obligation to uphold the honour and dignity of the profession and to avoid giving the appearance of circumventing the law.
I also noticed with interest that when Mrs Jagan received the Court's papers she threw them aside.
Guyana has had a lot of problems in the past. We do not need the Head of State disrespecting the Court; she must set an example; Mrs Jagan's actions were compounded when it was done in the presence of her Attorney-General, the Chancellor of the Judiciary and other dignitaries.
Mrs Jagan should apologise to the people of Guyana for her behaviour and to the Chief Justice who made the interim order.