The United States-based Carter Center delegation continues to engage local political actors and have already met with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
Speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo briefed reporters on the meeting with the Carter Center delegation earlier in the week.
“I met with the Carter Center [representatives] and we discussed elections and the conduct of elections, credible elections and early elections. That’s what they’re here for and constitutional compliance – that this government is illegal,” he stated.
Further, the Opposition Leader went on to say that he has been meeting regularly with the international community.
In fact, on Thursday afternoon, he met with members of the western diplomatic community here.
The ABCE Chief of Missions at the meeting were: United States Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch, Deputy British High Commissioner Ray Davidson, Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee and Deputy Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation in Guyana Philippe Coessens.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo was joined in that meeting by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali on Thursday.
The four-member Carter Center delegation is currently on a one-week visit to Guyana to get a better understanding of the situation here.
Following a meeting with Attorney General Basil Williams on Wednesday, Carter Center’s Associate Director – Democracy Programme – Brett Lacy told reporters that the organisation is trying to get the various perspectives of the current situation.
“We were happy to have an opportunity to meet with the Attorney General, to hear from him about the laws of Guyana and to his various arguments relating to the current circumstances in Guyana… And I can say from the Carter Center, we are really just here to listen and we are hoping to meet with different actors to understand everyone’s perspective on current events here in Guyana,” she stated.
This is the Center’s second visit to the country. Back March, another delegation led by Jason Carter, the grandson of former US President Jimmy Carter, visited Guyana and met with local political stakeholders.
In fact, after a meeting with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) at the time, the younger Carter posited that there was a lot of political desire to reach a solution but noted this will have to be done by the political leaders here.
“Ultimately, our role here, of course, is limited. We are not Guyanese, we care about this country… But ultimately, the issues that are being confronted right now are going to require the cooperation of the political leadership of this country and we are optimistic…” Carter had stated back in March.
But even as the US-based delegation continues to engage local political stakeholders, there appears to be a gridlock as to when elections will be held. In fact, discussions in this regard are still ongoing at GECOM.
Elections were constitutionally due since March 21, 2019 – following the passage of the December No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against the current government. However, with the legal challenges which ensued, that timeline was on pause but was subsequently reinstated after the July 18, 2019 Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling, which validated the passage of the motion.
Despite the constitutional timeline for early elections long expired, the coalition Government has insisted that a date cannot be set without the President first being advised by GECOM on its preparedness to host polls.
GECOM, on the other hand, had come under heavy criticism for also deliberately delaying the elections by going ahead with the controversial House-to-House Registration. The constitutionality of that exercise was then challenged in court.
In fact, Chief Justice Roxane George last month ruled that the conduct of House-to-House is not unconstitutional or illegal. However, she noted that GECOM cannot operate as it would in a normal elections cycle. Given that the NCM triggered early elections, the Chief Justice had stated that there are other methods that can be used to sanitise the voters’ list in a timely manner, such as Claims and Objections.
She had also ruled that it would be unconstitutional for the Commission to remove qualified persons already on the voters’ list, since the House-to-House exercise was aimed at creating a new National Register of Registrants (NRR) Database, which the Opposition said would have disenfranchised thousands of Guyanese.
Nevertheless, the Elections Commission has since scrapped the House-to-House Registration, which had recorded over 300,000 new registrants, and is looking to merge the new data obtained with the existing NRR database – something which the Opposition is against.
Jagdeo insists that there should be polls long before the end of 2020 and made a case for this when he met with the Elections Commission on Tuesday.