GECOM will continue to prepare for elections – Granger
…to get funding from National Assembly
Amidst calls for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to continue its preparations for the hosting of General and Regional Elections in spite of the ruling by the Court of Appeal, and as the country waits for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to rule on the appeal, President David Granger said Government will ensure that the elections body is in a state of readiness to hold polls.
The Head of State told reporters on Wednesday morning that regardless of what has taken place in the local courts and what is ongoing before the CCJ, the Administration will ensure that GECOM has the necessary resources needed to deliver free and fair elections.
“We are going to ensure that whatever happens at any level of the judicial system, Guyana is urgently prepared… I’ve been very happy with the level of cooperation I’ve been getting from the (GECOM) Chairman and as far as possible, we are going to satisfy those needs (he requested). We are going to go back to Parliament and make requests to ensure that GECOM has everything it needs. We are committed to having clean elections, credible elections in this country and as I said, I will engage GECOM to ensure that the request made to me by the Chairman is satisfied,” he asserted.
However, President Granger could not say when the next sitting of the National Assembly will be held.
“We have to prepare that Bill (to get the money requested by GECOM) because when we were deemed by the Supreme Court that there was no Cabinet, we could not go to the National Assembly because only Cabinet could submit a Bill to the National Assembly. But now that the ruling of the Chief Justice has been set aside, Cabinet has sat and we have decided to go back. I cannot say when but at the earliest date possible…,” the Head of State indicated to reporters.
Since the Court of Appeal’s ruling last Friday that the No-confidence Motion was invalidly passed on December 21, 2018, since it required an “absolute” majority of 34 votes, calls have been mounting from various stakeholder bodies for the elections body not to abandon plans to prepare for polls so that it is ready whenever elections are due.
Prior to Friday’s ruling, GECOM had indicated that it cannot hold elections before the March and has voted to do house-to-house registration which will conclude in November. In fact, Chairman, Justice James Patterson, in a letter to the Head of State informed him that polls cannot be held before late November 2019.
Justice Patterson explained in the correspondence that since the elections body is continuing with its normal work programme, that is, the holding of house-to-house registration, it will need some $3.5 billion to host elections and as such, “no election date should be contemplated less than five months after these funds are placed at the disposal of and under the control of GECOM”.
Upon the receipt of this letter last week, President Granger wrote Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo indicating that he will “soon” announce a date within the timeframe outlined by GECOM.
However, now that the Appeal Court has invalidated the successful passage of the No-confidence Motion, which had effected a 90-day timeline within which elections were to be held, the President has indicated no plans to go ahead with giving a date for elections.
In fact, his coalition Administration is currently gearing up to resume sittings of the National Assembly. However, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Opposition has since indicated that they will not participate in any of the National Assembly sittings until the Caribbean Court of Justice rules on its challenge of the Appeal Court’s decisions.
Lawyers representing Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has already filed the appeal, asking the regional court to restore the ruling of the Chief Justice, who upheld the passage of the No-confidence Motion with a 33 majority.
Meanwhile, with GECOM having already rolled out its 2019 work programmes last weekend, training in this regard has commenced. Training for trainers has been completed, while enumerators will be trained this weekend.
But the impasse between the Government and Opposition nominated commissioners at the Elections Commission continues. At Tuesday’s statutory meeting, Commissioners on both sides clashed when “Election 2019”, which was placed on the agenda, came up for discussions.
PPP-nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn told the media that his Government colleague, Vincent Alexander, requested that it be removed from the agenda and instead go with elections, alone.
The former Minister, now Commissioner, said this points to the overall position, manipulations and collusions that have been taking place to have elections occur in 2020.
But Alexander had a different opinion. He said he objected to having “Election 2019” placed on the agenda because at the moment there is no mandate to conduct elections this year.