Commissioners threaten sanctions against GECOM officials who flout orders
CCJ consequential orders
….says CEO duty bound to immediately begin preparations for Sept polls
Three of commissioners from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have warned officers at the body to comply with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) directive and work towards holding elections, lest they be hit with sanctions for breaking the law.
In a statement on Saturday, Opposition nominated Commissioners Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn, urged GECOM and its Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield to awake from their slumber and immediately begin preparations for elections.
“Upon the passage of this motion of no confidence the clear provisions Article 106 immediately became engaged, it is now the only imperative to abide with the provisions of the Constitution and its statutory related thereto,” the commissioners stated.
The commissioners cited the CCJ judgement, where the CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders had reminded the court that GECOM has to abide by the constitution and that it has a responsibility.
“Consistent with the orders of the CCJ GECOM must immediately start preparations for elections and its Chief Executive Officer Lowenfield must ensure this in accordance with his statutory functions. Naturally, any official of GECOM who does anything inconsistent with the CCJ’s orders would be in gross contempt of the said orders and the Constitution and would thereby attract the appropriate sanctions.”
“We, therefore, join the call for the proper observance of the rule of law and declare that we stand ready, as always, to fully support the implementation of constitutionally democratic processes as is required for all of GECOM’s activities,” the commissioners stressed.
On July 12, CCJ ruled that the APNU/AFC Coalition government should have resigned and general elections be called in accordance with the “spirit and letter” of the constitution of Guyana.
Without naming a date for elections, CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders insisted that the constitution is clear and therefore the December 21, 2018 passage of the No-Confidence Motion triggered Articles 106 (6) and (7).
Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Meanwhile, Article 106 (7) states: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election 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, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
According to Justice Saunders, there was no need for the court to gloss over these provisions but it is in fact the responsibility of the constitutional actors to be faithful to the rule of law and operate within parameters of the Constitution. “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 its defeat, 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.”
Furthermore, the CCJ President noted that with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM also responsible for the conduct that elections, it therefore means that the elections body “too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution.
He went onto to point out that elections should have been held on March 21, 2019 following the December passage of the Opposition Sponsored-motion but that process was on “pause” pending the legal proceedings. That process, he added however, was no longer on pause following the court’s June 18, 2019 ruling, which upheld the validity of the no confidence motion and thus triggering the need for fresh elections. This means that general and regional elections would have to be held on or before September 18, 2019 to be consistent with the three months’ constitutional deadline.
At present, GECOM is without a Chairman. Since the regional court ruled that former GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson was appointed unconstitutional, he has resigned. As such, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger have been trying to find a replacement to carry out the necessary early elections.
At the same time, GECOM lawyer Stanley Marcus had revealed during the CCJ hearings that the commission has already started house to house registration and has spent millions in preparation of this. Attempts to contact Lowenfield or other officials from GECOM were futile.