“GECOM must be compelled to hold elections in 90 days” – activist
…says President Granger’s involvement absolutely necessary
By Samuel Sukhnandan
Given the stalemate between Government and the Opposition over the holding of elections and the failure of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to definitively pronounce on its readiness for same, outspoken activist, attorney and chartered accountant Christopher Ram said the most rational and obvious thing to do at this point was to get the Commission to act.
In expressing deep concern over the posture of GECOM, Ram told Guyana Times on Tuesday that “GECOM is a creature of the Constitution of Guyana and it seems that the move is to frustrate and undermine the holding of elections”, reiterating that election must be held in 90 days as constitutionally mandated, as a result of the successful no-confidence vote.
Ram, who has been at the forefront on this issue, argued, “The election has to be held in 90 days unless there is a two-thirds vote in the National Assembly to extend that period. This is messing around with the Constitution and it is heading down a dangerous and slippery slope.”
Asked what role President David Granger could play in helping to address the issue before hand, the social commentator said, “As a person committed to democracy, the President must take the lead in this matter. It has been said time and time again that the world is watching and citizens are watching, and this inertia and unwillingness to do something.” He continued, “If GECOM doesn’t want to move, then it must be compelled to move.”
However, Ram told this publication that democracy operated on the presumption of certain standards of behaviour. “You don’t expect that the President should have to call them to say do this … as a creature of the Constitution, GECOM must know what it is required to do from the time a vote of no confidence came up. It should have been preparing itself.”
He argued further that GECOM should always be prepared to have elections in 90 days or less, subject to the requirements of the Representation of the People’s Act. Ram has rubbished the arguments that GECOM now has to go back to house-to-house registration, as is being peddled by the Government through its representatives on the Commission.
When questioned as to whether given the current circumstances that Guyana is faced with, if he sees the President’s involvement as necessary now, Ram responded in the affirmative. “Absolutely … and he has to let people like Vice President (Khemraj) Ramjattan know that you don’t play around with democracy and he is playing a very dangerous game,” he posited.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Commissioners on GECOM are contending that far from the view being expressed by GECOM and Government officials, elections can be held by March 19, 2019. One of them, Sase Gunraj has noted that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield has been creating an impression that there is not enough time to complete various tasks before elections. But according to him, these tasks can be completed concurrently.
“Lowenfield has said that we need 90 days for specific tasks. When you look at the tasks that make up those 90 days, most of the tasks can be done concurrently,” Gunraj said. “For example, advertising for staff can occur at the same time that you are procuring training material.”
In a recent interview, Commissioner Bibi Shadick had also asserted that GECOM could hold elections within 50 days. According to Shadick, she is basing this on the information provided by Lowenfield at Thursday’s meeting at the Secretariat. The Commissioner related that she even offered Lowenfield a proposed timeline for conducting elections within that time frame.
Last week, Chief Whips Gail Teixeira and Amna Ally emerged from their meeting with GECOM with more questions than answers, as GECOM refused to give deadlines for its preparations.
In an interview after the meeting, the Opposition Chief Whip had been less than satisfied with the answers she did get. According to Teixeira, she asked if the Commission could make simultaneous preparations to accommodate what remains of the time frame for elections.
GECOM, which successfully ran the Local Government Elections (LGE) in November 2018, less than three months ago, is being blamed by Government for not being ready, but it is the President of Guyana, who has to give a date for elections and not GECOM as is being touted. The President of Guyana, according to the Constitution, has to dissolve Parliament and issue a date for elections.