Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo has filed proceedings in the High Court to strike out a challenge mounted by private citizens Dianna Deravinee Rajcumar and Phillip Marcus, for him to disclose for their perusal, the academic qualifications of Irfaan Ali, the Presidential Candidate of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).
PPP/C Presidential Candidate: Irfaan Ali
In the application which was heard yesterday by Justice Franklyn
Holder, Jagdeo’s lawyer, Anil Nandlall has asked the court not to
exercise its jurisdiction to hear or grant the orders being sought by
the citizens. In fact, Nandlall argues that Jagdeo has no duty in law to
produce the documents being requested by the citizens
Nandlall contends that the application filed by the citizens has no prospect of success and should be dismissed with costs awarded to his client. Nandlall is asking the Court to strike out the challenge on the grounds that it is scandalous, frivolous and vexatious and is an abuse of the Court’s process pursuant to Rule 14.01(1) (a) of the Civil Procedure Rules which states:
(1) In addition to any other power to do so under these Rules, the Court may, on its own initiative or upon application, strike out the whole or part of a Statement of Case if it appears to the Court that, (a) the Statement of Case or the part to be struck out,
(a) the Statement of Case or the part to be struck out, (i) does not disclose any reasonable ground for bringing or defending the claim; (ii) is an abuse of the process of the Court; (iii) is scandalous, frivolous or vexatious; or (iv) is likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings…”
Nandlall, who was a former Attorney General under the PPP/C government, further contends th
Leader of the Opposition: Bharrat Jagdeo
at the application filed by Rajcumar and Marcus does not challenge
Ali’s qualification for being elected as President. In fact, the lawyer
argues that pursuant to Article 90 of the Constitution, Ali is duly
qualified to be elected to the highest office of the land.
Article 90 of the Constitution reads: (1) A person shall be qualified for election as President and shall not be so qualified unless he or she – (a) is a citizen of Guyana and is Guyanese by birth or parentage as defined in articles 43 and 44; (b) is residing in Guyana on the date of nomination for election and was continuously residing therein for a period of seven years immediately before that date; and (c) is otherwise qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly.
According to Nandlall, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has already accepted PPP/C Lists of Candidates for the upcoming general and regional elections on which Ali had been identified as the party’s Presidential Candidate.
In the application, Nandlall submits that Ali is qualified to be elected as President as he is a Guyanese by birth with permanent residency at Sea Spray, Leonora, West Coast Demerara. Ali, he said, is not a citizen of any other country and was elected as a Member of the National Assembly of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Parliament.
Apart from the foregoing, Nandlall also tells the court that Ali also served as Minister of Housing, Trade and Industry and was also Head of the Public Accounts Committee of the Eleventh Parliament.
Nandlall is of the view that if Rajcumar and Marcus believe Ali is unsuitable for the post, then they have the freedom and right under the Constitution not to vote for him; they can vote for another Presidential Candidate or political party of their choice.
This matter comes up for another hearing next week Thursday at the High Court in Demerara.
ENTITLED TO KNOW
As a basis for their applications, the citizens through their Attorney-at-law Stephen Lewis contend that consequent to their constitutional right to vote, they have a right to information on the candidates for the upcoming general and regional elections.
Against this backdrop, they say they are entitled to know the educational antecedents of the candidates to access, process and interpret along other with information, before deciding to vote for them.
According to them, “As persons, intending to exercise their right to vote [they] are entitled to be privy to facts giving insight in the candidate’s capacity and suitably for acting as a President, Parliamentarian or a legislator including details of his/her life educational qualifications.”
In light of the foregoing, they are seeking a declaration that they are entitled to know the qualifications of Ali, and for
Jagdeo to produce the first degree certificate and transcripts for any first degree conferred on him. They are also asking for information on the name of the university from which Ali obtained the first degree, as well as information concerning the nature of the study completed in relation to the first degree.
They also want to be privy to information setting out whether Ali was issued with a certificate of graduation, which states that it was issued by the Business College, West Demerara Chamber of Commerce and information on whether any studies at the College led to him obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Planning.
Furthermore, they want a copy of any transcript issued by the Business College, West Demerara Chamber in respect of the Bachelor of Arts in Planning; information on whether any degree was obtained by Ali from the University of Sunderland; a copy of the certificate of any said degree from that university along with a transcripts to any degree obtained by Ali from that university.
Should the court rule in their favour, Rajcumar and Marcus are asking that the documents be produced within seven days from when the court’s order is handed down. Apart from Jagdeo, GECOM had been listed as a Respondent in the applications filed by the two.
Notwithstanding questions lingering as to authenticity of his qualifications, Ali, last year October was listed as a graduand of a Doctorate in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad.
19 FRAUD CHARGES
Ali is currently facing 19 fraud charges for allegedly depriving the state of millions of dollars when he sold State lands way below the market value to high-ranking public officials, including Jagdeo. This newspaper had previously reported that the lands worth $214M were sold for a meagre $39M by Ali during his tenure as Minister of Housing under the PPP government.
The charges against Ali state that between the period 2011 and 2015, he conspired with persons unknown to defraud the Government, when he acted recklessly by selling 19 plots of state lands at Plantation Sparendaam and Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara. He was not required to plead to the charges and has been released on self-bail.
The presidential hopeful has moved to the Court of Appeal in a bid to have the charges quashed; the court is set to render a ruling soon. Ali moved to the appellate court after the High Court dismissed a similar application filed by his lawyers.