…asks PPP, Govt to write sick Chairman first
…as inquiries into preparedness for early elections stall
Even as political parties try to ascertain the Guyana Elections Commission’s readiness for early elections, efforts have hit a stumbling block with Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield declining to meet with party representatives in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly’s two Chief Whips: the Opposition’s Gail Teixeira and the Government’s Amna Ally, were supposed to meet with GECOM officials – a decision made during a meeting between Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger on Wednesday.
However, Teixeira in an interview with Guyana Times said that a meeting with Lowenfield would probably have been better, since a number of technical matters would have been dealt with. However, she noted that Lowenfield deferred to
GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, himself on an extended medical leave.
“Lowenfield thought it appropriate we write the Chairman first and get a meeting set up. That’s what (Chief Whip Amna Ally) did as a result. We haven’t gotten a response yet. My view was that this is a technical issue and (we should) get the technical areas from Lowenfield and his secretariat and the operational preparedness,” Teixeira said.
Meanwhile, Ally in an interview with the State media stated that Lowenfield did not have a difficulty in meeting with them. But nevertheless, he still requested that they seek out Patterson.
“This, I did, speedily yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and the letter has been dispatched to the Chairman of the Elections Commission as well as the Chief Elections Officer, requesting a meeting to have us briefed on the matter of GECOM’s preparedness for elections,” Ally was quoted saying.
“Whether we are to have elections within 90 days (or) whether we are going to
have elections after. I cannot anticipate them. Whatever the Commission tells us, then we are going to be in a position to brief our principal on the status quo of GECOM in terms of preparedness for the elections,” the Social Protection Minister added.
It was announced recently that Patterson had had his medical leave extended, even as the three-month deadline mandated by the Constitution for elections after a successful no-confidence vote approaches and preparations are at a standstill.
Patterson, who was recovering after being hospitalised last month, was expected to return to GECOM on Tuesday to host a statutory meeting. On Tuesday, the Commission revealed that Patterson did not return as scheduled and in fact, it had received an extension of his medical leave.
According to a statement, Patterson is recovering but has been advised by his doctors to take additional rest to ensure full recovery. The statement added that “the Chairman will provide further updates on his resumption”.
Contacted on Tuesday last, GECOM Public Relations Officer (PRO)Yolanda Warde revealed that the statutory meeting would be postponed until Patterson returned. She also said that GECOM has to wait on the executive before beginning
its election preparations.
The no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – against the Government succeeded when Charrandas Persaud, a former Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian, broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state 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.” Government has gone from promising to respect the vote to denying the vote’s validity on grounds that include an argument that 34 should have been a majority vote in the 65-seat Parliament. A court case has been filed seeking, among other things, a stay of the elections pending a ruling. The Opposition Leader has already warned that if elections are not facilitated within 90 days and there is no parliamentary agreement to extend this time, Guyana will have in place an unconstitutional government.