Thu | Jan 21, 2021

Attorney general repudiates Guyana Election Commissions chair's attempts to dictate CEO report

Published:Saturday | July 11, 2020 | 12:00 AMCMC
Guyana's attorney-general and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

(CMC): Guyana's attorney general and minister of legal affairs, Basil Williams, says the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired justice Claudette Singh, cannot direct the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, what to include in his report to the commission regarding the disputed March 2 regional and general elections.

“If the chairman of GECOM advises the CEO as to what to put in his advice to the commission, it would amount to a breach of the Constitution, since the chairman of GECOM would be acting on her own advice and not acting only in accordance with the advice of the CEO, after such advice has been tendered to the commission,” Williams said in a statement.

Singh, on Friday, informed Lowenfield that he should revisit her letter dated July 9 to prepare his report that would start the process of releasing the official results of the elections.

Lowenfield had earlier written to Singh indicating that he needed guidance on whether the report should be premised on Section 18 of the Election Law or on Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution.

“In response to your request for guidance on which the results of the March 2, 2020 elections can be declared, you are accordingly advised that my letter dated July 9, 2020 stands,” Singh responded, informing Lowenfield that “you are, therefore, required to submit your report by 11.00 hours on [the] 11th [of] July, 2020."

Williams said that the framers and legislature envisaged that the CEO would independently prepare his advice under Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and his report under section 96 (2) of Representation of the People’s Act (ROPA), which has been 'constitutionalised' by Article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution without directions from GECOM or the chairman, who must receive both at a duly constituted meeting and shall act on them.

“GECOM cannot rely on Section 18 of the Election Law (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 2000 which provides that the CEO is subject to the direction and control of the commission, because it would be in conflict with provisions of Article 177 (2) (b) aforesaid and Section 96 of ROPA, which has been constitutionalised as aforesaid,” Williams said.

He said Article 8 of the Constitution provides that “The Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana, and if any other law is inconsistent with it, that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void."

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