Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has warned that any attempts to pursue House-to-House registration instead of elections would be in defiance of the pronouncements made by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
In a recently published gazette, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) announced that House-to-House registration will begin from July 20 and last until October. Though it was signed by the former GECOM Chairman retired Justice James Patterson since June 11, the gazette was only recently made public.
Jagdeo pointed out that the exercise, if pursued, will not uphold the constitutional deadline for elections and creates a ‘worrisome’ atmosphere.
“This is very worrisome to the entire country because it represents an open defiance by the Chief Elections Officer of GECOM to the constitution of Guyana and the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice,” said Jagdeo.
GECOM’s lawyer Stanley Marcus had told the CCJ on June 24 that GECOM must have House-to-House registration and that the earliest a voters’ list will be ready is by December 25, 2019 – pushing elections which ought to have been held since before March 21, 2019 – to next year. This was challenged after the Opposition insisted that a claims and objections period could fix the list in a shorter period of time to ensure that all voters are on the official voters’ list.
“The Court took all of that into consideration and ordered that elections be held within the period outlined in the Constitution, which is three months and GECOM must comply with the Constitution. That’s clear as daylight in their order which was issued on July 12”.
The former President pointed out that the elections body is aware of the fact that this process will delay the elections. Consequently, he shared that Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfied is acting against the Court’s directive.
“They are embarking on process which they know will not end with elections being held within three months. This would take six months maybe if we’re optimistic and much longer we believe…Clearly, Mr Lowenfield is acting in contempt of the Court order issued on 12th July by the Caribbean Court of Justice,” he voiced.
Jagdeo later added, “What is yet to be revealed is the deceit through which they are coming around to this decision or they came around to this decision…Secret activity seem to be going on within GECOM, all with the purpose of delaying elections”.
The gazette order for House-to-House registration was done on June 11, prior to the CCJ ruling and consequential orders which followed after. He commented that the Court’s decision should take precedence.
“They forgot that subsequent to the gazetting of that order, that there was a Court ruling because this was done before the June 18 decision of the Court and definitely before the July 12 consequential order which states elections in three months”.
Adding to that, scepticism ensued after the fact that the order was not seen or heard of in the public domain prior to a few days ago. The contention is that either the list was not placed in the gazette initially or it was concealed.
“The whole of Guyana didn’t know about this order. Either one of two things happened. We have two orders with the same number – order 25 o 2019. One that was gazetted on the 11th June and the other on 14th June, both bearing the same number. They claimed that the June 14 order was an addendum to the one done on June 11. But I’m making two contentions – one, its either there was no gazetting of the order [and] that they are lying to the country; or if they did gazette the June 11, they hid this. This only surfaced recently,” the Opposition Leader disclosed.
He further examined that last Tuesday, the order was non-existent on the webpage. However, it miraculously appeared hours after.
“The June 11 order on House-to-House registration was not on their website. And miraculously overnight, they uploaded it and it just appeared there…They have now gone back and inserted the June 11 gazette on their website”.
This “rogue behaviour” of GECOM was also one of the topics under discussion with members of the international community.
Jagdeo related, “I have briefed the international community about the rogue behaviour of GECOM because it is not acting in compliance with Constitution and the decision of the Court. We will be following up this matter further”.
Three of commissioners from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) had warned officers at the body to comply with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) directive and work towards holding elections, lest they be hit with sanctions for breaking the law.
In a statement on Saturday, Opposition-nominated Commissioners Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn urged GECOM and its Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield to awake from their slumber and immediately begin preparations for elections.
“Upon the passage of this motion of no-confidence the clear provisions Article 106 immediately became engaged, it is now the only imperative to abide with the provisions of the Constitution and its statutory related thereto,” the Commissioners stated.