CCJ: Elections by Sept 18

The eagerly awaited consequential orders from the CCJ, flowing from the consolidated cases appealed from the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) of Dec 21, 2018 and David Granger’s unilateral selection of the GECOM Chair were delivered last Friday. Ultimately, the decisions and orders of the CCJ relate to the date for holding of elections in Guyana in accordance with the Constitution. Inter alia, the CCJ summarised:
a) The provisions of Article 106(6) and (7) of the Constitution apply to a No-Confidence motion.
b) Thirty-three votes constitute a majority of the 65-member National Assembly.
c) Mr Charrandas Persaud was ineligible to be elected to the Assembly by virtue of his Canadian citizenship, but his vote on the motion of no confidence was valid.
d) Nothing in the anti-defection regime established in Article 156(3) of the Constitution rendered Mr Persaud incapable of casting his vote on that motion in the manner in which he did.
e) The National Assembly properly passed a motion of no confidence in the Government on 21 December 2018.
f) Upon the passage of this motion of no confidence in the Government, the clear provisions of Article 106 immediately became engaged.
There are some who seem to have some problems with comprehending the above or are deliberately obfuscating the issues in furtherance of their own narrow agendas. Caretaker President David Granger, for instance, said in his address to the nation following the CCJ’s presentation: “Guyanese, it is clear that elections have to be held in the shortest possible time… I commit to the holding of credible elections in the shortest possible time”. But this reference to “elections in the shortest possible time” is prevarication at best and disingenuous at worst. As the CCJ pointed out: “The Judiciary interprets the Constitution. But, as we intimated in our earlier judgement, these particular provisions require no gloss on the part of the Court in order to render them intelligible and workable”. A “gloss” in legal circles is “an annotation, explanation, or commentary on a particular passage in a book or document, to elucidate or amplify the passage”.
The CCJ went on to belabour this point: “Their meaning is clear and it is the responsibility of constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them. Upon the passage of a vote of no confidence, the Article requires the resignation of the Cabinet including the President. The Article goes on to state, among other things, that notwithstanding such resignation, the Government shall remain in office and that an election shall be held ‘within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine …’ The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has the responsibility to conduct that election and GECOM too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution”.
“The Court must assume that these bodies and personages will exercise their responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution bearing in mind that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed as long ago as 21 December 2018”.
But it appears that caretaker President Granger needs a “gloss” on these “unambiguous provisions of the Constitution”, which it had, in any event, presented in its judgements of July 18. To wit, that the valid passage of the NCM on Dec 21, 2018 had mandated elections by March 21, 2019. But the Government’s recourse to the High, then Appellate Courts placed that process “on pause”, which was reactivated with the decision by the CCJ – the ultimate Court for Guyana – on June 18, that the NCM was validly passed. By the operations of Art 106, elections therefore have to be scheduled on or before Sept 18, 2019, unless the Opposition PPP wishes to extend the date.
Having categorically declared they are unprepared to do so, the latter date now kicks in and as the CCJ declared, GECOM is not above the Constitution and must facilitate same.