Criminal charges filed against Chairman, Govt Commissioners by Minister’s brother
GECOM’s foot-dragging on elections
The brother of Business Minister Dominic Gaskin on Tuesday filed private criminal charges against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman and the three Government Commissioners for conspiracy to breach the Constitution of Guyana.
The charges were filed by complainant Marcel Gaskin against Retired Justice James Patterson, Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman. The charges, which were filed by Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin on March 12, 2019, stated that the four defendants, during the period of December 22, 2018 and March 9, 2019 conspired to breach Article 106 of the Constitution of Guyana, which provided for the holding of General Elections in Guyana within three months from December 21, 2018.
The case comes up for hearing before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan on Friday.
Only on Tuesday, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Commissioners walked out of the statutory meeting at GECOM after the issue of house-to-house registration was on the agenda instead of General and Regional Elections as mandated by the Constitution of Guyana.
Since the passage of the no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018, there has been much criticism about GECOM’s preparedness for the mandated General and
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Clause 7 of Article 106 of the Constitution of Guyana states that, “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.”
President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had initially committed to following the provisions outlined in the Constitution, facilitating early elections and engaging in dialogue with the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo but have since changed their position.
Since the passage of the motion, by a vote of 33-32, on December 21, 2018, however; persons aligned with the coalition have sought to question the motion’s validity even as the vote has already been certified.
The original proponent of the 34-vote argument is Attorney Nigel Hughes, a former AFC Chairman and the husband of sitting Minister Cathy Hughes, who told State media that half of 65 is 32.5, but when rounded to the nearest whole number, this would be 33 as there is no half member.
Following a challenge of this in the High Court, acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that 33 is the majority. The Government has since challenged the Chief Justice’s ruling in the Court of Appeal. That case continues today at the Court of Appeal.
With nine days remaining before the constitutional deadline for holding elections expires, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Gregory Quinn on Monday reminded that the clock was ticking, even as a civil society group urged President Granger to announce a date for the polls.
“The Constitution is the supreme law… There is the three-month clock, which is still ticking, it hasn’t been stayed yet…,” the United Kingdom envoy told Guyana Times during an exclusive interview at his Bel Air Gardens residence in Georgetown on Monday.
After March 21, 2019, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government effectively becomes illegal. The only way this can change is if the parliamentary Opposition – the PPP/C – votes for an extension of the life of the Government, but Opposition Leader Jagdeo says he will do so only if the Head of State announces a date for elections before the expiration of the current voters’ list on April 30, 2019.
However, President Granger is not keen on doing so, as he is pushing for house-to-house registration, a process which can conclude in November 2019.
Guyana has never been in such a situation before, and some experienced political analysts, including distinguished lawyers, have predicted that the country will head into a constitutional crisis.
Pressure has been mounting on the coalition Administration to adhere to the Constitution of Guyana, and for the President to call a date for elections soon.
President Granger has been insisting that he has to await guidance from GECOM before he executes his presidential responsibility.
However, the Civil Society Forum – an organisation comprising several Non-Governmental Organisations, as well as the Private Sector, trade unions and religious groups – argues that this position adopted by the Head of State was “unacceptable”.
In a statement on Monday, the Group said: “Giving GECOM effective power to determine when elections will be held is a position for which no constitutional support exists.”
It said this “manoeuvre” revived the misgivings and insecurities generated by the controversial selection of the current Chair of GECOM, Justice Patterson, who now has the casting vote on when elections would be held.
In February, United Nations Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka urged the State to demonstrate its integrity and respect Guyana’s Constitution.
“Recent political developments triggered by the no-confidence vote in the National Assembly are a test for Guyana’s strength and integrity with regard to the effectiveness of the rule of law and governance,” Tanaka said.
She lauded acting Chief Justice George for demonstrating the independence and integrity of the Judiciary when it comes to protecting the Constitution of Guyana.
The acting Chief Justice had ruled that the no-confidence motion was validly passed 33-32 in the National Assembly and the Cabinet has to resign in keeping with constitutional provisions of Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) respectively.
Consequent to the declaration that the 33-majority meant that the motion was carried, Justice George observed that the President and the Ministers could not, therefore, remain in Government in accordance with Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution after three months.