Chief Justice to give decision today

Guyana Chronicle
March 31, 2001

CHIEF Justice Desiree Bernard is due this morning to give her decision in the PNC/R legal bid to bar President Bharrat Jagdeo from taking the oath of office following his PPP/C's victory at the March 19 elections.

If her decision clears the way for the swearing-in of the President, the ceremony is expected at the earliest possible opportunity, a source said.

The PNC/R challenge in court began last week Friday and the Chief Justice completed the hearing Wednesday and had reserved her decision.

Mr Joseph Hamilton of the People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R), had sought an order prohibiting Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Major General Joe Singh, from declaring Mr Jagdeo as President.

He claimed any declaration would be unlawful, null and void in that the results of the elections cannot be lawfully ascertained in accordance with Sections 97 and 98 of the Representation of the People Act.

Hamilton also sought an order directing the Chief Elections Officer, Mr Gocool Boodoo to quash his decision to ascertain the results of the elections claiming there had been material and substantial breaches of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03.

In addition, he wanted an order directed to the Chancellor of the Judiciary from swearing in Mr Jagdeo as President on the ground that any declaration of the Presidency would also be unlawful and of no legal effect.

GECOM announced the results of the elections early last week Friday morning and in an affidavit, the commission has told the Chief Justice that the vote count complied with the law.

In his affidavit in support, Hamilton contended that the Returning Officers did not publicly declare the votes recorded in the respective district with respect to each list of candidates in accordance with Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03.

He also raised several other points.

But Mr Ashton Chase, S.C., for GECOM submitted Wednesday that the affidavits by the applicant contained hearsay and cannot be seriously considered.

Although counsel for Hamilton had been saying that the motion was not challenging the elections or does not seek to vitiate the elections, the demands in the motion show that that was exactly what he was seeking to do, he said.

Chase pointed out that there was no fundamental rights application before the court and declared that none of the cases cited by the applicant was constitutional.

Senior Counsel submitted that there was no accepted and reliable evidence on which the order sought could be granted.

Reacting to the applicant's claim that the court had the authority under the Act to grant the relief sought, Chase said, "We in Guyana will be making precedent if we use a prerogative order for stultifying the law for an election purpose."

Lawyers for Hamilton urged the Chief Justice to grant the remedies sought while those for the respondents contended that the applicant's remedy was by way of an election petition and not a prerogative writ.

As such, they asked that the motion be dismissed.