On Thursday, Guyanese both at home and in the Diaspora, followed closely the Chief Justice’s landmark rulings on cases which stemmed from the No-confidence Motion on December 21, 2018, which saw the toppling of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government after almost three and a half years in office.
The Judge made several determinations based on her constitutional interpretations following three cases filed at the High Court. She addressed the cases filed by Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams who contended that 34 votes were needed to have the no-confidence vote validly passed, while Government supporter Compton Reid was challenging the citizenship status and validity of Charrandas Persaud’s vote. The third action filed by Attorney and Charted Accountant Christopher Ram petitioned to have the Administration resign with all convenient speed and have President David Granger call elections within 90 days.
Among her decisions, Justice Roxane George, SC, ruled that the December 21, 2018 vote of no-confidence against the APNU/AFC Administration was validly passed and the Cabinet ought to have resigned and call fresh elections within 90 days, counting from the time the motion was passed.
In spite of the decisions not being in its favour, in its quest to hold onto power, the APNU/AFC Government has remained defiant and has not given any indication if and when the Cabinet will resign. In an official release to the press following the ruling of the acting CJ, the Government stated the Government notes and respects the rulings of Justice George but stated in the same breath that until the matter is concluded at the highest court of appeal, “the status quo remains and the business of Government continues as usual”.
Certainly, the status quo cannot remain as per normal and the business of the Government cannot continue as if nothing happened. The fact remains that the Government was defeated in a confidence vote and therefore does not have the same powers it enjoyed prior to the vote being passed. In addition to taking care of national security and public service matters, the Government’s main focus should be planning and offering the necessary budgetary support to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to run off the next elections which are due by March 19.
So far, the nation has witness several attempts by the Government to delay the process. The APNU/AFC had stated on numerous occasions before that they are proud of their accomplishments over the past three years. They had provided a long list of ‘achievements’ and boasted about not being afraid to face the electorate again. However, based on their recent actions, it is clear that the coalition Government is using all avenues; including the courts to stall the process and to buy time. In their latest pronouncement, the coalition indicated that they are ready to go “all the way to the [Caribbean Court of Justice] CCJ” to present their case to remain in office.
Any Government that is confident of the way it has performed would call elections to get a renewed mandate from the electorate; more so considering the fact that one of their own members had expressed a loss of confidence in the way the Administration governs.
Now that the decisions were delivered by the CJ, it is hoped that GECOM will get on with the business of preparing for the elections and indicate its readiness to run off the polls as it is mandated by the Constitution to do.
We have also taken note of the Government-nominated Commissioners advancing their case for there to be house-to-house registration in order to arrive at a new voters list. This, we believe, is unnecessary at this point in time as the current voters list is valid up to April 30. It could be recalled that the list was used for the last Local Government Elections and there were no concerns raised then by the electorate or any other stakeholder. Even if the list has a few deceased persons on it, there are checks and balances at polling stations to address this.
Certainly, in the coming days the professionalism and integrity of GECOM will be tested. The electoral body which has a constitutional mandate to hold free, fair and credible elections must not be caught up in any attempts to delay or derail the process. There must be no room left for citizens to accuse the organisation of being politically biased.
Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, must be commended for the swiftness in which the matters were heard and her thorough manner in delivering her decision.