Embarking on H2H did not take into account NCM – CJ
…reminds Commission cannot proceed with its business as usual
The Chief Justice (CJ) has delivered her written ruling on the No-Confidence Motion (NCM), issuing a stern reminder to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that an NCM was passed, and as such, the body cannot ignore this and proceed as though it’s business as usual.
This reminder is contained in paragraph 113 of acting CJ Roxane George’s almost 50-page document. According to the written judgement, former GECOM Chairman James Patterson’s order to begin House-to-House Registration did not take into consideration the December 21, 2018 passage of the NCM.
“The fact is that the July 2018 decision, and that made in 2007 at the 171st Meeting of GECOM, to conduct House-to-House Registration, were not made in the context of an NCM,” the CJ wrote in her ruling.
“The NCM is an extraordinary circumstance that GECOM must bear in mind in its decision-making as it conducts the House-to-House Registration and for that matter, any verification process that has as the objective, the compilation, or revision of the list of electors for the required upcoming elections”.
Justice George acknowledged that GECOM is an independent body pursuant to Article 161 and 162, which is not subject to the control of any other authority. But she also noted that GECOM is also subject to the Constitution and laws, thus, the Commission “cannot act as though it is in a normal registration or election cycle”.
“As such, since GECOM is seeking to register electors, GECOM may have to consider other options including what other methods of verification of the list may have to be utilised, whether in conjunction with or separately from the house-to-house exercise”.
“Indeed, the CEO/CR deposed that the preparation of the Official List of Electors permits the registration of every qualified elector during the registration exercise or a Claims and Objections period,” the judgement states.
Patterson’s National Registration (Residents) Order of 2019, setting July 20 as the date for GECOM to commence House-to-House and for it to conclude in October, was gazetted in July. However, the order was signed by Patterson since June 11. The CCJ invalidated Patterson’s appointment via its ruling on June 18, with the retired Judge stepping down from his post at GECOM soon after.
With the clock ticking and elections months overdue, GECOM has not yet made a decision with regards to the holding of elections or any other matters, even after the Chairperson, Justice Claudette Singh, has now had two meetings with the six commissioners since her appointment last month.
The new GECOM Chair met with both Opposition and Government-nominated commissioners for the first time last week, but no decisions surfaced regarding the next course of action with respect to House-to-House Registration.
The meeting reportedly lasted a few hours, after which PPP Commissioner Bibi Shadick told the media that the Commission’s “businesses” were discussed. She stated that the matters will be addressed once the Chief Justice’s ruling is submitted in written form.
“We have a new Chairperson…we have a new dispensation. There were no decisions taken today. We didn’t have benefit of the Chief Justice’s decision as yet. It has to be given out when it is completed,” Shadick had told media operatives.
She also met with the commissioners on Wednesday, where they have still not decided on how to proceed regarding elections and the ongoing House-to-House (H2H) Registration. In fact, there was a marked reluctance to get into specifics with the press on how this latest meeting with the GECOM Chairperson went. People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated commissioners were tight-lipped, only commenting that a further meeting will be held on Friday.
However, the Commission does hope to advise President David Granger “not long from now” on their preparedness for the polls. This is according to Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander, who noted that while discussions on the way forward have started, outstanding matters still need addressing.