Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson is expected to officially return to work today; however, despite all the delays and the urgency of dealing with election matters, there is nothing on the agenda of today’s meeting to address these issues.
When contacted by Guyana Times, People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s GECOM Commissioner Robeson Been explained that electoral issues were completely absent from the agenda of the meeting today. Instead, Benn noted that routine issues were scheduled to be discussed.
“We got an agenda (Monday) afternoon,” he said. “It was just a basic, standard agenda. I asked that those (electoral) items be discussed … the issue of the timing of General and Regional Elections and the question of the preparedness of GECOM to conduct elections within that timeframe.”
Benn explained that when he received the agenda, he immediately made enquiries and asked that issues relating to GECOM’s preparedness to conduct elections be discussed. Up to press time, Benn had not received a response.
“(The agenda included) basic things like the call to order, the minutes of the last meeting, reports from committees, reports from the central executive. Nothing new, just the standard agenda …. I sent out my response to the agenda, asking that those (electoral) items be included on the agenda.”
Even though the GECOM Chairman will be returning today, there is still no word on when he will meet with Government and Opposition Chief Whips Amna Ally and Gail Teixeira. When contacted by this publication, Ally was asked if she had received confirmation of a meeting. She responded in the negative. Teixeira and Ally have been trying to facilitate a meeting with GECOM for over two weeks now, but to no avail.
It was agreed at a meeting between Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger that the Chief Whips would be sent to ascertain GECOM’s readiness for elections. Since then the attempts by the Chief Whips to facilitate a meeting have been seemingly ignored.
GECOM Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has declined to meet with Teixeira and Ally, but has instead deferred to Patterson.
On December 21, 2018, the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition – the (PPP/C) – against the Government succeeded when former Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud 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.”
Since the passage of the motion; however, persons aligned with the coalition have sought to question the motion’s validity even as the vote has already been certified. These arguments formed part of the opinions presented to Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland in the hopes that he would reverse the ruling. He refused to do so.
Amid calls to resign, Government has insisted it is going nowhere until elections are held. A court case was filed, in which an order was sought to, among other things, delay the elections until the court rules on the matter.
That and other related cases came up for hearing last Tuesday, but acting Chief Justice Roxane George committed to a ruling by the end of this month, while noting that such an order would be unnecessary.