Civic groups seek injunction against elections to ensure GECOM fulfilling mandate

A group of civic organisations and private citizens have applied to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the holding of the general elections, until the electorate is assured that the Guyana Elections Commis-sion (GECOM) is carrying out its mandate

GECOM is named as a defendant in the action, which was filed by the Guyana National Council on Public Policy (GNCPP), the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), An Interfaith Group of Concerned Religious Elders (AIGCRE) and private citizens Phillip Thomas, Andres Atkinson, Maureen Williams, Mohammad Sadiq, and Juste Ramdas.

They are seeking injunctions restraining GECOM from holding the polls until it can clearly demonstrate that it is conducting the electoral process in keeping with its legal responsibilities and that the contesting parties “are given equal opportunities in the media for explaining their policies, without being subject to the dictate of any political party.”

They are also seeking an order directing all political parties not to stand for the elections or re-elections until there is an assurance of a mechanism to provide the “most free and ample participation” of all citizens.

The other defendants named in the action are the groups contesting the polls—the PPP/C, the PNCR-1G, TUF, AFC, GAP, APNU, JFAP, WPA and GPP.

The action, filed on behalf of the organisations and citizens by attorney Mortimer Coddett, seeks to have the court declare, among other things, that the upcoming general elections will not be free and fair, in light of measures implemented by the defendants to prevent the national electorate from being duly informed, “in order to make critical informed consent decisions at the time of polling.” They argue that the electorate has been deprived of CNS Channel 6, the main independent source of pertinent information necessary for the making of an informed decision.

Also, they contend that the channel as one medium that reaches the length and breadth of Guyana and duly informs the national constituency was removed or prohibited from providing the necessary information for the electorate to make an informed decision.

President Bharrat Jagdeo issued CNS Channel 6 with a four month suspension of its broadcast licence, based on sanctions recommended after it aired a controversial commentary. The channel was off air for one week before Jagdeo lifted the suspension, after growing public criticism.

He said that he lifted the suspension so that the opposition parties would have no excuse for not going to the elections.

The suspension will now take effect on December 1, after the holding of elections.

The endorsement of claim by the plaintiffs says that they suffered “irreparable and irreversible harm” that cannot be cured because they have been deprived of valuable time, during which they would have received unfettered information to make informed decisions on polling day.

In addition, they further contend that CNS channel 6 was reinstated with the “sword of Damocles” hanging over its head and is so castrated that it would not allow them unfettered and unbiased information necessary to make informed decisions.

They also cite the control over the state-run National Communications Network (NCN), noting that the plaintiffs would only be allowed five minutes to hear vital information from the political parties that would be subject to censorship and fettered.

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