Guyana will take a significant step today in finally deciding who their next president will be.
All eyes will be on courtroom one of the Guyana High Court at 2 pm when Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire will hand down her ruling on whether or not a verification process of votes in Region Four is required before a final declaration of the results is made by the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM).
“It may not be the full decision but I would like to render a ruling so that there is not much more delay,” George-Wiltshire said yesterday at the High Court after she heard arguments both for and against a need for verification of the votes.
Last Thursday, attorneys for the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic secured an injunction against GECOM, its chief elections officer Keith Lowenfield and the Region Four returning officer Cairmony Mingo, stopping them from declaring the results of last Monday’s election. The injunction was issued by Justice Navindra Singh.
Senior Counsel Neil Boston, representing GECOM, yesterday filed six affidavits in response to the injunction.
The matter was called before George-Wiltshire around 3 pm.
T&T-born Senior Counsel Douglas Mendez, lead attorney on the team that brought the injunction, said according to the affidavit filed by Mingo, he fell ill while the tabulation of votes was taking place.
“I began feeling ill around 11 am and I went upstairs to rest. Before leaving to go upstairs, I instructed the clerks to continue the process and the senior clerk to supervise the process,” Mendes read from Mingo’s affidavit.
“While upstairs my condition worsened. I had to be rushed to the hospital. I was advised by Michelle Miller, a senior clerk, and verily believe that the process did not stop since the clerks continued the process in my absence.
“And the observers and all party representatives were present. When I took ill, Georgetown was finished except five Statements of Poll that had queries and we had East Bank, Demerara and East Coast, Demerara to do.
“I was informed by Miss Miller that in my absence the clerks inputted the data for East Bank and East Coast Demerara. There was a complete input of all the data for district four at around 7.30 pm on Wednesday under the supervision of the senior clerk Michelle Miller.”
In his affidavit, Mingo said Miller, a senior GECOM clerk, told him all the data for District Four was inputted into the computer by March 4.
“I was duly informed by Michelle Miller and verily believe that all the information inputted into the computer was extracted from the Statements of Poll for District Four,” Mendes read from Mingo’s affidavit.
Mendes said when Mingo fell ill there were still 458 out of 879 ballot boxes still to be counted. Mingo said as far as he was concerned, the process for counting votes was completed by 7.30 on March 4. Around 2 pm on March 5, Mingo made the declaration of votes recorded.
But Mendes said Miller’s position as a senior clerk was not listed under Section 84 of the Representation of the People’s Act as someone who could fulfil the function left to her by Mingo. Boston, however, responded that as the returning officer, Mingo could have invested that responsibility to Miller. Boston said at the time the votes were being counted “it was bacchanal and people cursing”, so Mingo adopted the methodology he thought fit to get the job done. Boston said Mingo showed “substantial compliance” in getting the task completed although 458 out of 879 ballot boxes were completed by him He said the fact Mingo ensured the process was completed was the evidence of that.
Mendes said that would be equivalent to Usain Bolt running only 50 metres and claiming victory in a 100-metre sprint.
“We may have been able to grapple with the argument if there had been 90 per cent compliance,” Mendes said.
“But not with less than 50 per cent compliance in something important as this, that cannot be substantial performance.”