GECOM meeting fails to reach consensus on election timeline

Court-ordered Art 106 March 19 elections

… ignores expediting proposal

After hours of deliberation, discussions at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) over various timelines for holding constitutionally due General and Regional Elections reached a dead end, with complaints that suggestions for expediting preparations were ignored and side-lined.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioner Robeson Benn on Tuesday slammed GECOM over the fact that instead of looking for ways to speed up electoral preparations taking into account the three months constitutional stipulation, efforts continue to be made to delay the process.
“I have said previously that in my view, a sinister and callous plan is afoot to delay the holding of elections on the constitutional mandated date,” Benn said. “I have said both at the GECOM meetings and elsewhere that GECOM is complicit in not

GECOM Commissioner Robeson Benn

achieving these dates.
“For today’s (Tuesday) meeting, I expected that GECOM would have taken account of a presentation I made which indicated that training for which they had put 105 days (latest duration) could be achieved in 32 days at the most. They have not taken account of the presentations in relation to that.”
According to Benn, his presentation had demonstrated the overlap in the types of training GECOM would have to do. He said that instead of the nine weekends being proposed by GECOM to do training, only three weekends were needed.

Pulling strings to stymie elections
Benn reminded that GECOM has a constitutional mandate and that the collective and individual members of the Commission could be held liable for their failure to hold elections in keeping with the Constitution. He went on to note that a Commission of Inquiry is needed to determine who is pulling strings to stymie the

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali among protesters on Tuesday

“I have said that I am really not prepared to go to any other discussion on any other option until we look at the first option, and that is to hold elections on March 19, 2019. When we examine that and thoroughly dispense with that, then we can look at the other options.
“This situation could not be arrived at because they did not present the information which they were told they ought to have considered and put in the work plan. I think we are in a sorry state.”
Benn also zeroed in on GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, who he revealed has been refusing to brief them on a meeting that was held between representatives from the diplomatic community and the Chairman.

When questioned by the media, GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield declined to discuss specifics about the timelines being proposed.

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield

According to Lowenfield, he will defer to the Commission when it makes a decision. However, he too acknowledged that discussions on these timelines have hit a roadblock.
“The operations subcommittee met this morning and deliberated on the submissions made by the Secretariat relative to the many options that are available. Unfortunately, that subcommittee was unable to arrive at any decision. The subcommittee will be meeting again at some time.
“Ours is to stay at a particular state of readiness…the Commission shall be responsible for the conduct of elections and the conduct of registration. Each of

Hundreds brave the sun and scattered showers outside GECOM

those subsets requires an order from the Commission. The order will be published and gazetted and then we proceed with operations at the Secretariat,” he added.
The parliamentary Opposition and other observers have accused Government of attempting to delay the holding of the constitutionally mandated elections following the passage of no-confidence motion of December 21, 2018.
The three-month time frame in which the polls should be held was validated by last Thursday’s ruling by acting Chief Justice Roxane George, who declared that the

GECOM’s Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson

motion was validly passed 33-32.
The complaint has been that GECOM was not forthcoming about its preparedness for the mandatory elections despite being mandated by the Constitution of Guyana to hold elections within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion.
In fact, during a previous meeting with the Opposition and Government Chief Whips, the GECOM Chairman abruptly ended a meeting on the Commission’s preparedness after he was pressed for answers.
It was only a few days ago that United Nations Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka had urged Government to respect the Constitution. Guyana’s Private Sector Commission had also previously called for GECOM to open up about its readiness for elections.
GECOM successfully ran the Local Government Elections in November 2018, less

Protesters demanding GECOM carries out itsconstitutional mandate

than three months ago.
It is the President of Guyana, who must give a date for elections and not GECOM as being touted. The President of Guyana, according to the Constitution, has to dissolve Parliament and issue a date for elections.