Govt plunging country into constitutional crisis – Jagdeo to diplomats
…says GECOM has become accomplice to Govt’s delaying tactics
…Harmon distances Govt, says ball is in GECOM’s court
A no-confidence motion has been passed against his government, but with each day that passes without President David Granger announcing a date for General and Regional Elections, Guyana slips closer to a constitutional crisis.
This is according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who on Monday hosted meetings at his Church Street, Georgetown office with foreign diplomats to apprise them of the political situation in Guyana following the no-confidence resolution and to air the parliamentary Opposition’s concerns.
According to Jagdeo, in an interview following the meeting, he raised concerns with the diplomats that Guyana may be heading towards a constitutional crisis with the Government’s sloth in calling elections.
“We’ve been having engagements with different groups from the international community, to apprise them of the situation in Guyana and our take and how we feel about the sloth of the Government to seriously consider the constitutional implications of their behaviour,” he said.
“They’re behaving as if nothing happened and we’re in a normal situation, when we’re heading to a constitutional crisis. So I pointed out clearly about that rapid pathway to a constitutional crisis and what will take place once the country gets into that situation, how we will act. And you are aware in the public domain what the approach will be on our side.”
GECOM aggravating situation
Jagdeo outlined that the Guyana Elections Commission’s attempts to delay early elections are only aggravating the situation. He explained that he also outlined to the diplomatic community how the People’s Progressive Party would act should Guyana reach this position.
“It is disastrous, because I think GECOM at the level of the Secretariat from the documents they provided to the Commissioners seem ready to start the process rolling. But at the level of the Commission, the Commissioners representing the Government have now taken on a political role. So their rhetoric is similar to the Government,” Jagdeo said.
“Amna Ally has been speaking about it. So suddenly Vincent Alexander, (Desmond) Trotman and (Charles) Corbin, representing the Government on the Commission, have been parroting the same language. It seems their only task is to delay the start of preparations for elections. So their actions at GECOM are going to push us to a constitutional crisis faster.”
Those who attended the meeting were China’s Ambassador to Guyana Cui Jianchuan; Mexico’s Ambassador to Guyana, Ivan Medel; Indian High Commissioner to Guyana V Mahalingam; Inter-American Development Bank Country Representative Sophie Makonnen among the other representative of the diplomatic community.
Meanwhile, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Monday distanced the Government from the claims of GECOM’s foot-dragging. According to Harmon in a State media release, it is up to GECOM to decide its readiness for elections.
He went on to state that Government would have no say in the process despite the fact that there were three Commissioners representing the State who have been advocating for house-to-house registration – a process that could delay elections by several months.
“I understand that they (GECOM) have outlined to the [Government and Opposition Chief] Whips a process through which these matters must go and so if there is an intention to expedite things to force issues; that will compromise those processes. I believe that those are matters that GECOM will have to pronounce [on].”
“But certainly we will not want a list that is defective and we would not want a list that excludes persons who are entitled to be there and principally among that group is the large group of young people,” Harmon said.
He expressed his belief that it was in the best interest of GECOM to ensure the credibility of the list before any elections were held.
“I believe that it is the right of GECOM to insist that they have a list that can withstand scrutiny that in the event that they have to deal with an election, that they can say that the electoral results represent the will of the people of Guyana,” he said.
House-to-house registration or not, the President is yet to announce a date for the elections. According to the Constitution of Guyana, it is the President who has to dissolve Parliament and set a date for elections.
On Friday last, Chief Whips Gail Teixeira and Amna Ally had met with GECOM officials to ascertain the entity’s preparedness to hold elections.
That meeting had ended when GECOM’s chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson abruptly called the proceedings off when he was pressed for answers.
The Chief Whips were supposed to report to Jagdeo and Granger respectively. When contacted on Monday, Ally could not say if the President had indicated when he would make this announcement.
On December 21, 2018, the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition against the Government succeeded when former Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “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.”
Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state that “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.”
Amid calls to resign, Government has insisted it is going nowhere until elections are held. A court case was filed, in which an order was sought to, among other things, delay the elections until the court rules on the matter. A ruling is expected on January 31.