GECOM has more than enough funds for elections – Commissioners
…GECOM Chair reviewing ToRs from UNDP; Carter Center on board
It seems the Government really has little excuse for not dissolving Parliament as the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) itself has confirmed that it has enough funds for the holding of General and Regional Elections next year.
This was related by Commissioners from both the Government and the Opposition side on Tuesday and comes following claims by the Government that it has not dissolved Parliament yet, just in case GECOM needs additional funds.
Following the conclusion of the weekly statutory meeting, Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj was asked whether the Secretariat had enough funds for the holding of elections scheduled for March 2, 2020.
“As far as I am aware, yes. GECOM has $8 billion at its disposal,” Gunraj said, though he could not say whether all the money has been released to them. Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander also echoed his colleague, noting that the monies allocated for GECOM are enough to ensure it conducts elections.
“We do not have a problem with funding, as far as I know… If perchance we don’t have enough funds, I think we still have some time to approach Parliament,” Alexander informed the media. Meanwhile, Alexander also noted that GECOM has decided to grant an indefinite extension for the thousands of persons who have not picked up their identification cards, to do so. According to Alexander, only approximately 800 persons have collected their cards.
In September, President David Granger announced March 2, 2020, as the date for the hosting of the constitutionally-mandated General and Regional Elections; however, with time creeping up, he is yet to issue a proclamation to dissolve Parliament.
If elections are to be held on March 2, 2020, as announced, then President Granger would have had to dissolve Parliament by December 3, 2019. This is in keeping with Article 61 of the Constitution, which states that election of members of the National Assembly should be done within three months after every dissolution of Parliament.
It has been almost one year after the successful passage of a motion of no-confidence against the A Partnership for National Unity /Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) coalition government and the constitutionally-mandated General and Regional Elections are yet to be held.
This is despite the Constitution clearly outlining that elections were supposed to be held no later than 90 days after the motion was passed.
On Thursday last, Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, when asked about the dissolution of Parliament, said that would solely depend on the needs of GECOM.
“In fact, we have said it is important that GECOM gets all of the resources it needs to ensure that we have credible elections in March of 2020. So what I am saying is those issues will have to be dealt with before the Parliament is dissolved. I can’t say that Parliament is going to meet today, the next day or whatever but these are the matters that are under active consideration in the Cabinet and so that the dissolution of the National Assembly will be determined in principle measure by the need for GECOM to get the additional resources which it says it wants,” Harmon told the media, adding that there have been attempts to carry on committee business at Parliament.
Last month, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters that the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) will resume protest action if President David Granger does not dissolve Parliament come this month.
“When the time comes, he will have to dissolve. I’m just making sure that he understands one thing that December 2 is the day… He has to dissolve Parliament; he has to issue a proclamation. Let him delay that and we’ll resume protest because that’s part of the holding of elections – the dissolution of Parliament,” Jagdeo had noted.
Meanwhile, Gunraj also revealed that they met with representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Carter Center, the latter of whom he said is looking to provide assistance with electoral monitoring.
It had previously been said that GECOM had turned away offers of assistance from the UNDP. According to Gunraj, however, Chairperson of GECOM, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, is now reviewing the Terms of Reference (ToR) submitted by the programme.
And while this help was reportedly in the field of Information Technology (IT), Gunraj noted that as far as he is aware, GECOM’s IT systems are operating at full capacity. He was hopeful that GECOM will indeed accept the help it is being offered, wherever necessary.