Mustapha seeking expedited hearing of challenge to GECOM chair decision

PPP Executive Secretary Zulfikar Mustapha yesterday filed an application for his appeal of the recent decision upholding the appointment of Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman Justice (retd) James Patterson, to be heard early.

This comes days after his Attorney Anil Nandlall filed a Notice of Appeal challenging the ruling which was made by Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George SC on June 8.

According to court documents, Mustapha is asking the Court of Appeal to fix an early date for the hearing and determination of the matters; permit and authorize the Appellant to prepare the Record of Appeal forthwith and dispense with all other formality and procedural requirements in order to facilitate an early hearing and determination of the case.

In his Affidavit in support of the motion after listing all of the facts of the case, Mustapha said that he was informed by his attorneys that they have already begun to prepare the Record of Appeal which can be ready within one week. He argued that the Appeal involves pure issues of law concerning an interpretation of Article 161(2) of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and therefore can be heard and determined within two hearing days.

“This Appeal concerns the fundamental issue of whether the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, the constitutional body responsible for the administration and management of Guyana’s electoral process, beginning with the registration of Electors and ending with declaration of results and allocation of seats in relation thereto, was lawfully appointed in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana”, he said, adding that the Appeal raises issues of high and significant national importance which strike at the heart of this country’s constitutional and electoral democracy.

According to Mustapha, the Minister responsible for Local Government Elections has publicly signalled that those elections will be held by December, 2018, and National and Regional Elections are constitutionally due by August, 2020.

“Regardless how this Honourable Court rules, there is every likelihood that the decision of this Honourable Court would be appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice. In the circumstances, it is in the national and public interest, that this appeal be heard and determined as early as is reasonably possible”, he stressed.

He noted that the respondent, the Attorney General can hardly claim to suffer any prejudice or injustice by an early resolution of the issues raised in this appeal and indeed it would be in the best public and national interest that they support the application.

Following the appointment and swearing-in of the then 84-year-old Patterson on October 19th last, Mustapha filed an application in the High Court, contending among other things that the president had no power to make a unilateral appointment once a list of six names had been submitted to him.

Among the issues which the court had to determine was whether the appointment of Justice Patterson was unconstitutional as the applicant contended that the President had no power to make a unilateral appointment once a list of six names was submitted to him.

The court ruled that the President has the power, under Article 161(2) of the Constitution, to reject the list submitted by the Opposition Leader if it is unacceptable to him and to resort to the proviso of that article and choose a person as Chairman of GECOM who is, was, or is qualified to be appointed as a judge in Guyana or the Commonwealth.

The Chief Justice ruled that the President was entitled to resort to the proviso once he found the list that was submitted to be unacceptable, but whether it was unacceptable would have depended on an objective analysis of the persons thereon according to the criteria set out by the President in a letter to Jagdeo.

The judge also found that the President is required to indicate either specifically or generally the reasons why persons on the list or the list was found by him to be unacceptable in order to justify him rejecting the entire list and resorting to the proviso.

To this prerequisite, however, the Chief Justice said, “there is nothing to suggest that this was done, nor was any submission made by the respondent to so indicate, so it must be concluded that the President has, thus far, failed to give reasons for his decision to reject the list as being unacceptable.”

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