GECOM has “absolutely no authority” to remove Dr Asha Kissoon from Parliament

…says Commission actively discussing matter

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has made it clear that it has no authority to remove Dr Asha Kissoon from the National Assembly – a seat that she is occupying beyond the six-month term allotted to her party under the Joinder Agreement.
According to the Joinder List Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Kissoon’s party – The New Movement (TNM) – was entitled to occupy the opposition seat in the National Assembly for 91 days. That timeline ended since November 2023 but Dr Kissoon continues to occupy the parliamentary seat – a move that has sparked criticisms from some quarters including A New and United Party (ANUG), whose turn it is to serve in the National Assembly.
In fact, there have been calls on the Parliament Office and the Elections Commission to intervene and remove Kissoon, who is also serving as Deputy Speaker of the House, from illegally occupying the seat.
GECOM, in a statement on Wednesday, declared that “…it must be categorically stated that GECOM has absolutely no authority to remove Dr Asha Kissoon from the National Assembly. Article 156 of the Constitution of Guyana stipulates the conditions under which a Member of Parliament can be removed from the National Assembly and there is clearly no role for GECOM in this regard.”
Article 156 (1) states a member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat “… (a) if he or she resigns it by writing under his or her hand addressed to the Speaker or, if the office of the Speaker is vacant or the Speaker is absent from Guyana, to the Deputy Speaker: Provided that, if the President certifies that the member had resigned for the purpose of giving further service to the public, the member, if otherwise qualified, shall be eligible to be re-elected to the Assembly in accordance with any provision made under article 63; (b) if he or she is absent from the sittings of the Assembly for such period, and in such circumstances, as may be prescribed in the rules of procedure of the Assembly; (c) if he or she ceases to be a citizen of Guyana; (d) subject to the next following paragraph, if any circumstances arise that, if he or she were not a member of the Assembly, would cause him or her to be disqualified for election as a member thereof by virtue of the preceding article or of any law enacted in pursuance thereof; (e) in the circumstances and to the extent set out in article 178(4)…”
Despite its position, however, GECOM indicated that the matter is “actively being discussed” at the level of the Commission and that the outcome will be publicised upon conclusion of the discussions.
The Elections Commission reminded stakeholders that it will continue to execute its Constitutional mandate within the framework of the law.
On March 2, 2020, TNM along with ANUG and Justice Party (LJP) had executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), agreeing to merge the votes earned by them if sufficient to take a seat in Parliament, and to share a rotational occupation of that seat in Parliament in proportion to the votes earned by each.
At those elections, the number of votes secured by the three joinder parties were: 2657 by LJP – the most votes secured; while ANUG and TNM obtained 2313 and 244 votes, respectively.
Based on the joinder agreement, each party would occupy the shared seat for a specific period. The stipulated duration of the terms by each party are two years, six months, and 20 days for the LJP; while ANUG would serve for two years five months, and TNM for 91 days. The three parties had previously committed to acting as a broker between the Government and the main Opposition.
After the 2020 Election, LJP leader Lennox Shuman took occupation of the single merger seat which he held for two and one-half years, before honouring his commitment and resigning in March 2023.
Dr Kissoon was then sworn-in as a Member of Parliament in April 2023 and was also elected as Deputy Speaker – a position also held by Shuman.
Based on the MoU signed, the TNM Leader should have resigned from the National Assembly in November, 2023, thus allowing ANUG to commence its parliamentary tenure.
Back in March, ANUG had said Dr Kissoon, on one occasion, indicated via a “verbal and informal promise” to vacate the seat on February 29, 2024 – three months late, but has since breached that commitment by refusing to relinquish the seat.
At a press conference in March, ANUG Executives had called the TNM Leader’s actions as undemocratic and a breach of trust.
General Secretary of ANUG, Timothy Jonas, said it was an arrangement of trust and it has been breached.
Back in January of this year, ANUG had identified its representative to take up the parliamentary seat in the person of Althia King – an active ANUG member since 2019.
The process for replacing an MP involves the National Assembly writing to the head of the party list to whom the seat belongs, once its occupant has submitted a formal resignation. The head of the list is tasked with informing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) which party candidate’s name to extract and submit to the National Assembly.
In March, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, had explained to this publication that Parliament did not have the power to remove Dr Kissoon in the wake of these events.
Dr Kissoon has not spoken on the issue, and continues to serve in parliament and as well as the Deputy Speaker. In fact, only as recent as Monday, she attended a sitting of the National Assembly. (G8)