LAA alterationsBy Shemuel FanfairAhead of the overall case regarding Bibi Shaddick’s disputation of Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan’s changes to several Local Authority Areas (LAAs), High Court Judge Justice Gino Persaud has dismissed Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams’s jurisdiction challenge on Monday.Attorney-at-Law Anil NandlallThe Judge observed that the AG’s argument that the matter should be heard via an elections petition after the November 12 Local Government Elections (LGE) are held “was not a relevant enough issue”.“The question on whether someone has been elected as a Councillor is not relevant to the issue raised by the applicant,” Justice Persaud pointed out.Williams had observed that Shaddick’s application amounted to allegations of irregularities and illegalities challenging the validity of the LGE, which have been gazetted to be held on November 12. However, in his ruling, Justice Persaud noted that no Councillor has been elected, as the case has not passed the elections stage. As such, the judge determined that the court has jurisdiction to hear “the merits of the applicant’s case”.Attorney General Basil WilliamsFollowing the ruling, the AG signalled that he would be looking at appealing the jurisdiction ruling, saying that Justice Persaud focused on certain legal arguments that were not in keeping with his case.“I will have to appeal his decision, so I could know whether he had dealt with those cases or not,” Williams told the press.In response, Nandlall, speaking with members of the media subsequently, brushed aside the AG’s intimation to appeal, saying that the court has not ruled on the substantive merits of the case. He reiterated that there could be moves to delay the case.“I have no doubt that in addition to the incompetent arguments that are being advanced, there is an agenda to stall and dilate the matter,” he stressed.However, Monday’s ruling on the preliminary matters to Shaddick’s legal suit was two-fold in nature, as Justice Persaud treated with Nandlall’s submission that the respondent, the Minister, was barred from challenging jurisdiction, since Solicitor General Kym Kyte-Thomas had “submitted to the court’s jurisdiction. Nandall harped on the fact that Kyte-Thomas agreed to the court’s timelines for the fixed-date application (FDA) hearing.Communities Minister Ronald BulkanHowever, with several legal citations, Justice Persaud opined that the court recognises the urgency of the case, and called the matter within four days of the case’s filing. “This is not a regular occurrence, and (is) probably without precedent,” the judge stressed.Justice Persaud reminded that FDA cases have to be heard within 28 days, and noted that the AG’s jurisdiction challenge he filed on behalf of Bulkan was within that time frame. On this basis, the Judge was of the view that Nandlall’s submission on the Solicitor General already submitting to jurisdiction was “fallacious, without merit, and cannot be sustained”.After the pretrial determinations, Justice Persaud ordered that the AG must file an affidavit in defence on or before October 22. The Court further ordered that both parties file written submissions on or before October 29.“I will fix a date for decision after being in receipt of all the written arguments; no orders for costs,” Justice Persaud stated.Among Shaddick’s several orders of which she petitioned the court, one is to bring the Communities Minister’s alterations into conformity with the Local Democratic Organs Act, Chapter 28:09. In so doing, she wants to have Bulkan’s orders declared null and void.Her grounds are that Bulkan failed to issue an order to identify the said boundaries under the Local Democratic Organs Act, making his actions null and void.She meanwhile said Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield, went beyond his exercise of discretion in re-demarcating the existing constituency boundaries as outlined in the orders sought before the court.The writ also outlines that the purported establishment of seven NDCs without complying with the provisions of the Local Democratic Organs Act is unlawful, ultra vires, null, void and of no effect.She said, too, that Lowenfield acted without authorisation in this regard, while adding that Minister Bulkan unilaterally made changes to the number of seats in 14 LAAs.