Home Top Stories PSC calls on GECOM to be fully prepared for elections within 90...
…Chair refuses to commit to meeting
…PPP, Govt Chief Whips left in limbo
While still on extended sick leave, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson has responded to a correspondence from the Government and Opposition Chief Whips requesting a meeting to discuss the Commission’s readiness for the pending General and Regional Elections.
Government Chief Whip Amna Ally and Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira were identified during a high-level meeting last week between Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger to meet with the elections body to determine its readiness for the upcoming polls.
Since then, the Chief Whips have written the Chairman requesting a meeting and according to Ally, Justice Patterson responded acknowledging her correspondence two days ago.
“The Chairman wrote me [for] a meeting with the Commission [but] I don’t know when… The Chairman of GECOM did not indicate when,” the Government Chief Whip told Guyana Times when contacted on Wednesday.
The GECOM Chairman has been on sick leave since November 30, 2018 and had it extended until January 22, when he is expected to return to work.
When contacted, GECOM Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward said it was likely that a date for the meeting with the Chief Whips and the Commission would be set once the Chairman returned next week.
Meanwhile, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Wednesday called on the Elections Commission to ensure that it was “fully prepared” to host the impending polls.
“The Commission wishes to remind the nation of the fact that unless otherwise ruled by the court, or decided upon by a motion passed by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, the Guyana Elections Commission must be fully prepared to conduct these elections within this period of time,” the Private Sector body said in a statement after giving serious and continuing consideration to the fact that general elections must be held within 90 days of the passing of a no-confidence motion.
During last week’s high-level meeting between the Government and the Opposition on the way forward following the December 21, 2018 passage of the no-confidence motion, there was no agreement on the hosting of elections in three months’ time as prescribed in Article 106 (7) of the Constitution, where it is stated that elections shall be held within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion 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”.
However, after that meeting, Jagdeo was optimistic that elections were going to be held, since Government had included GECOM’s readiness for elections on the agenda for the meeting.
“Elections will have to be held this year, the Constitution says that. I believe the President and the others would not have put on the agenda for this meeting, which is a meeting to discuss the consequences of the passage of the no-confidence motion, operational readiness of GECOM. So, I think they also share our views that elections will have to be held,” Jagdeo posited.
Meanwhile in a video released by the Ministry of the Presidency following that meeting, President Granger said, “We’ve agreed that the two sides will continue to work together to engage GECOM to ensure that elections are held within the administrative capabilities of the Guyana Elections Commission.”
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.”
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 the majority vote in the 65-seat Parliament. 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.