GECOM breaches constitutional timeline

Court-ordered Art 106 March 19 elections

…as technical staff give July 2019 timeline
…work plan being padded to extend time – PPP Commissioner

Technical staff of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are claiming the entity will be unprepared to hold General and Regional Elections, which are constitutionally due in March 2019.

The Guyana Elections Commission

On Monday, the Commission’s technical staff made presentations to the seven commissioners and have advised that the earliest elections could be held is July 2019.
Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield has presented copies of work plans detailing what needed to be done in preparation for General Elections, to the operations subcommittee on Monday. This timeline is a blatant breach of the Constitution of Guyana, which outlines that following the passage of a no-confidence motion, an election must be held in 90 days. The constitutional requirement was upheld by acting Chief Justice Roxane George on Thursday last when she held that the no-confidence motion was validly passed in the National Assembly.

Extend time

GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson

However, according to People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C)-nominated Commissioner Sase Gunraj, the position taken by the technical staff was all a ruse. Gunraj expressed his belief that elections could be held sooner and that the work plan was being padded.
“They have not justified to us all the timelines that they have included in their document. As a consequence, I would not rely on that timeline until I have had enough time to go through the document and scrutinise it.
“They have padded up the timelines with a whole set of things. As a consequence, it is not a realistic timeline that gives a true reflection of what is needed. For example, they’ve now moved training which they previously said would take 90 days; they’ve arbitrarily put 105 days now. They’ve given no reason for the increase.”
Gunraj said the number of days allotted for training could be reduced. In fact, he believes that several activities could be compressed to achieve an earlier date for elections. But he made it clear that if the constitutional timelines were not followed by the Secretariat, that was tantamount to dereliction of duty.
Following last Tuesday’s meeting at GECOM, the Secretariat had agreed to provide members of the Commission with several work plans detailing the various options and the timelines regarding the holding of General and Regional Elections.
Even this was initially not done, with a PPP/C-nominated commissioner complaining that despite promises of receiving the work plans by Friday, they were yet to receive them as of Saturday. It had been the Commissioners’ hope that they could be given the weekend to properly analyse the timelines before a meeting scheduled for today.
The parliamentary Opposition, sections of the diplomatic community, Private Sector, civil society and other observers have called the Government out on its attempt to delay the holding of the constitutionally-mandated elections following the no-confidence resolution of December 21, 2018. The three-month time frame in which the polls should be held was validated in last Thursday’s interpretation by acting Chief Justice George, who declared that the motion was validly passed by 33 votes to 32.

GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield

The complaint has been that GECOM was not forthcoming about its preparedness for the mandatory elections.
In fact, during a previous meeting with the Opposition and Government Chief Whips, the GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson abruptly ended a meeting on the Commission’s preparedness after he was pressed for answers.
On Sunday, PPP/C GECOM Commissioner Bibi Shadick called out CEO Lowenfield for his part in the entire dilemma.
Shadick explained that Lowenfield must bear some responsibility for the status of GECOM, since he knew since last year that elections were due in three months after the passage of the no-confidence motion.