Govt continues to ignore CCJ orders, Guyana’s constitutional stipulations
…caretaker Govt fails to resign
…President yet to take up urgent meeting request with Opposition Leader
The Government of Guyana continues to defy
both the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Constitution of Guyana by not resigning as ordered by the court, which ruled to enforce the constitution of Guyana.
With the Government being toppled following the passage of the No Confidence Vote on December 21, 2018, the CCJ ordered that Articles 106 of the Constitution of Guyana be enforced. Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution states, respectively: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” And “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The CCJ on the matter of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) ordered that the Opposition Leader and the President select a new Chairman as a matter of urgency.
The selection of a GECOM chairman is of paramount importance considering the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling and the President, himself, has said a Chairman can be appointed by Monday, but there has been no word on when the President and Opposition Leader will meet.
This is despite the fact that Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo took the initiative to write to President David Granger, inviting him to a meeting over the weekend or at any time. Jagdeo’s invitation even contained his personal phone number. But up to the press conference, the Government has been lacklustre about taking up Jagdeo’s offer and has not confirmed when this meeting will take place.
When contacted by this publication on Saturday, People’s Progressive Party Executive Member Gail Teixeira confirmed that the Opposition received a reply from the Government to Jagdeo’s invitation.
It is not, however, a response confirming that a meeting will take place. The former Chief Whip noted that the two sides have been exchanging correspondence since Friday and have not settled on details for the meeting. That exchange, according to Texieira, is continuing.
“So (never mind) the bravado of the President, ‘oh we can have a Chairman by Monday’, cut away the fluff and you have more fluff,” Texieira subsequently complained during a live broadcast programme. “Because the President’s response does not say, ‘yes, I’m available to meet, let’s set up a meeting’”.
In handing down its consequential orders on Friday, the CCJ had urged Guyana’s political leaders to appoint a new GECOM Chairman with the utmost urgency. This is especially in light of its previous ruling validating the December No-Confidence Motion, thus, triggering the need for fresh elections.
Subsequently, President Granger had announced, in his address to the nation, that a new Chairman could be appointed as soon as Monday. According to Granger in his video address, “it is clear that elections have to be held in the shortest possible time and, therefore, it is crucial to appoint a chairman of the Elections Commission. This could be done as early as Monday if the Opposition is prepared to act in a consensual manner and in good faith”.
It is following Granger’s commitment to meet that Jagdeo subsequently wrote the Head of State, proposing that they meet urgently. The Opposition Leader indicated to the President that he is available to meet at any time— even over the weekend— to work on a list of names for consideration for appointment to the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission in accordance with the Constitution.
Failure to adhere to Constitution
Meanwhile, the Government, in a statement on Saturday, called itself an “interim” Government – in apparent defiance to term itself as a “caretaker” as stated by the CCJ – and committed to curtailing its powers and legal authority in accordance with the Constitution and the CCJ ruling.
“This means that while the Government will continue its routine management of the country, it will also address urgent issues that are in the public interest. It is also prepared to consult with the Opposition on matters which require the agreement of both sides,” the Government said in the statement.
However, no mention was made in the statement whether Cabinet and the President stood resigned, nor was an election date named in the statement.
In clear defiance of the Constitution of Guyana, the Government said it “accepts that it is an ‘interim’ Government but emphasises that Cabinet has not stopped functioning and Government must continue to provide public services. The Constitution of Guyana at Article 106 (7) states that notwithstanding its defeat in the National Assembly, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election”.
In the same breath, the Government said that it agreed with the Court that it is of greatest importance that the President and the Leader of the Opposition conclude the process of appointing a new Chairman of GECOM.
According to the Government in its statement, it met with the Opposition three times in the past week to “hammer out” the list of six nominees in accordance with the CCJ guidelines. It noted that the process has not been completed.
The statement, however, also goes back to shifting the responsibility for an election date to GECOM, even though the President is responsible for proclaiming a date in accordance with the Constitution. In addition, GECOM itself has said previously that it will be ready whenever a date is set.
“With this No-Confidence Motion, it means once the date is set, it will be held… it is our constitutional mandate to conduct the General and Regional Elections and Local Government Elections (LGEs) whenever they are constitutionally due; so whether it is in the 90 days, then it is GECOM’s responsibility to conduct elections,” Public Relations Officer (PRO) of GECOM Yolanda Warde was quoted saying by the State media on December 27, days after the No-Confidence Motion was passed.
In its statement, however, the Government stated “the Elections Commission is responsible for holding elections and not the Executive. GECOM, therefore, has to advise the President of its readiness to conduct elections”.
“The Government maintains that credible elections are the hallmark of a democratic State. Credible elections are dependent on, in part, the integrity of the Official List of Electors,” it states.
Meanwhile, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) expressed its concern and noted that the President and Opposition Leader need to appoint a Chairman of GECOM as “a matter of urgency”. The PSC also noted that this must be done from the list submitted by the Opposition Leader.
“Within the spirit of the orders of the CCJ, the PSC, therefore, expects the President, GECOM, and all the political actors to act responsibly by adhering to the Constitution and the ruling of the CCJ,” the statement says.