…Commissioners clash over ‘Election 2019’ discussions
A high-level team from the Commonwealth Secretariat will be visiting Guyana to meet with top officials from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Thursday.
The aim of the meeting is to discuss the ongoing issues regarding election preparations.
The team will include Adviser and Head, Electoral Support Section, Martin Kasirye; Political Adviser to the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Tres-Ann Kremer, and Head of Good Offices.
The team is scheduled to arrive in Guyana today and will be here until Saturday. The meeting with the GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson and Commissioners is expected to last for two hours.
This was confirmed by GECOM Commissioners Robeson Benn and Vincent Alexander.
This meeting follows one that has taken place most recently between the Carter Center and officials of GECOM regarding election readiness. This meeting took place prior to the Court of Appeal decision.
Besides that visit, during Tuesday’s statutory meeting, Commissioners on both sides clashed when “Election 2019”, which was placed on the agenda, came up for discussions.
Benn, a People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Commissioner, told the media that Alexander requested that it be removed from the agenda and instead go with elections, alone.
The former Minister, now Commissioner said this points to the overall position, manipulations and collusions that have been taking place to have elections occur in 2020.
But Alexander had a different opinion. He said he objected to having “Election 2019” placed on the agenda because at the moment there is no mandate to conduct elections this year.
Aside from these issues, Benn said he also raised concerns over the letter that Patterson wrote to President David Granger on March 19, outlining his positions with respect to elections to be held arising out of the no-confidence motion. The PPP-nominated Commissioner finds issue with the fact that the Chairman’s position did not arise from any vote put or finding of the Commission on the issues.
“The public is led to believe that this is the Commission’s position. In this case, it was not even allowed for the Commission to vote one way or the other before a letter was sent to the President and since then, the President and others on the Government side have been using this letter as a cover for the positions in respect for elections and in itself after house-to-house registration,” he said.
Another disagreement Benn had during Tuesday’s meeting is the fact that he had requested previously that GECOM cease and desist from house-to-house related actions. “It was a policy matter and not a legal matter and in any event, the imperatives arising out of the no-confidence motion, even if there is an extension or one or the other, GECOM should be prepared for elections within 90 days in any period.”
GECOM has already commenced rolling out its 2019 work programme, which essentially is house-to-house registration, as of last weekend. Training in that regard has commenced. Training for trainers has been completed, while enumerators will be trained this weekend.
On Friday, March 22, in a 2:1 split decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that a majority of 34 votes would have been needed to validly pass the no-confidence motion brought against the Government last year.
The ruling means that the motion was not validly passed, and hence the coalition Administration was not toppled as a result of the events that occurred. The judgment has since been highly criticised since the judges inserted the word “absolute” into the constitutional provision regarding the majority.
The matter is being appealed by the Opposition at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).