This afternoon, the CCJ will be taking recommendations from the involved parties on the scheduling of general elections for the country and on the appointment of a new Chair of GECOM.
The court of ultimate resort for Guyana had, in its wisdom, requested the said parties – ultimately, the PNC-led Government and the PPPC Opposition – to put their heads together and arrive at a modus vivendi on these matters that were consequential to their judgments: that the NCM of Dec 21 was validly passed, and that the appointment of the GECOM Chair was ultra vires. They hoped there would “be a happy marriage of principle and practicality”.
On their face, the consequential orders should not have posed any challenges, since the constitutional bases for the CCJ’s judgement were explicit on the remedies sought. To wit, since the NCM was valid, according to Art 106 (2), the President and Cabinet should immediately resign, and elections must be held in three months. And secondly, if the appointment of the GECOM Chair was invalid, the President must forthwith appoint one from a list of six names to be submitted by the Opposition Leader, in accordance with Art 162 (6).
In reference to the NCM, which is a constitutional device available to all Commonwealth democracies, to test the legitimacy of sitting governments in terms of their support from the “people’s representatives”, the Government’s challenges to the validity of the vote of one of its MPs, and as to whether that vote gave the Opposition, which had moved the no-confidence, the constituted requisite majority, were both rejected. In other jurisdictions, such as notably Britain and India, the governments had resigned and elections were scheduled without any fuss in 1979 and 1999 respectively.
The actions of the PNC-led Government following the CCJ’s rulings, however, have been most unfortunate for the democratic transition on which Guyana had embarked after the free and fair elections of 1992, following two decades of illegal rule by the PNC, courtesy of flagrantly rigged elections.
The President has not demanded the resignation of the GECOM Chair, following that gentleman’s incredulous avowal – in light of being an ex-Judge – of being flummoxed about what to do following the CCJ’s declaration that he was illegally appointed.
The Opposition Leader, on the other hand, announced he was prepared to immediately submit the requisite list of six “fit and proper” persons. Since the President invited the Opposition Leader for a meeting “next week”, meaning after the CCJ’s hearing today, it means the CCJ will have to issue its own consequential order on the appointment.
On the issue of scheduling elections, the Opposition Leader evidently seized the request of wedding “principle to practicality” by suggesting that elections be held in two or three months. Obviously, the three-months date after the valid NCM of Dec 21 has expired, but since GECOM has had six months since then, they cannot credibly complain about not being able to conduct elections by September, which would satisfy the OL three- months’ deadline. GECOM, however, with the casting vote of the illegal Chairman, had voted for HtH registration to “sanitise” the voters’ list, and had proposed a date of late November.
While the rationale and the date were ostensibly in consonance with the Government’s position, the latter actually originated from the administration’s refusal to accept the NCM by insisting it was an improper mechanism to curtail their term of office. The PNC-led Government has now picketed GECOM’s offices, demanding house-to-house registration. They appear determined to drag out the elections date until “first oil”, which might be in sight with the announcement that the first FPSO will arrive in September.
Ironically, there is no law authorising HtH registration, since continuous registration was introduced back in 2001/2004 and there are several well publicised mechanisms to produce a valid voters’ list – as was pointed out by the legal officer of GECOM.
The CCJ must curtail the dilatory tactics of the Government in its consequential orders.