“If GECOM says elections by Sept 18, we will abide by it” – AG
…as panel explores fears of economic slowdown under caretaker Govt
If the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) decides that it can go to the polls by September 18, 2019, then the coalition Administration of A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) would be willing to abide by the agency’s decision.
This is according to Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams, as he appeared on a live broadcasted panel discussion hosted by the American Chambers (AmCham) on Monday at the Marriott Hotel.
A member of the audience posed a direct question to the AG, asking him whether the Government is prepared to abide by whatever decision GECOM makes, and whether Williams would accordingly advise the President if GECOM says it can hold elections in the three months’ time frame. Williams maintained that they were.
“The President is on record as saying that it is for GECOM to determine the readiness for elections in Guyana; not the President, not the Government. So, once GECOM determines its readiness, we’re good to go,” Williams insisted.
“We are ready, willing and able to have an election. The President is ready to name an election date, provided he is advised by GECOM as to its readiness,” Williams added.
Effects on economy
Meanwhile, fellow panellist, the former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, noted that the no-confidence motion has, and will have, a serious effect on the economy. Noting that even Williams has acknowledged that the Government now has caretaker status, Nandlall referred to all the things the Government cannot do.
According to Nandlall, the current status quo means that only routine contracts can be signed by the Government. And according to Nandlall, routine contracts cannot transform the economy or boost the economy.
“One thing Basil Williams has conceded is that they (Government) can only enter into routine contracts. Routine contracts cannot invigorate the economy in the manner in which we would like to see it. It cannot bring the transformational changes. Routine contracts are just routine contracts; (they’re) just to keep you going,” he observed.
“The thrust of the question is that you cannot enter into the contracts that matter. The contracts that matter are the ones that will have financing of a magnitude that will come from multilateral institutions. (Those) we cannot do; so for how long are we going to continue this routine thing?” Nandlall questioned.
Also appearing on the panel was former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran. He noted the ramifications if Guyana meanders on instead of having elections, especially on the oil and gas sector.
“Do you seriously think that a major company like ExxonMobil or its partners will seriously want to promote business, or engage in business, in a country that has a Government that is unconstitutional and is not supposed to be in office? Or a Government that has questions as to its status and stability? This is billions of US we’re talking about.
“Don’t you think ExxonMobil will want to hold back? And if they hold back, don’t you think that will do enormous damage to our economy, not only in its growth but its international stature? We’re in great jeopardy if this Government does not call elections by September 18 or talk to the Opposition and get an extension,” Ramkarran said.
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, Article 106 (7) states: “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.”
A no-confidence motion was passed against the Government on December 21 of last year. However, elections were not held, and there has been no resignation. Instead, Government went to court, unsuccessfully arguing that the no-confidence motion was not validly passed.
The case reached the CCJ, where the regional court ruled against the Government but stopped short of issuing an order fixing an election date. Instead, CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders had said that when the no- confidence motion was passed on December 21, 2019, Article 106 of the Constitution had immediately been activated.
According to Justice Saunders when he read the ruling, there was no need for the court to gloss over the provisions of Article 106 (6 and 7), but it is in fact the responsibility of the constitutional actors to be faithful to the rule of law and operate within parameters of the Constitution.
Further, the CCJ President had noted that with GECOM also responsible for the conduct of those elections, it therefore means that the elections body “too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution.
He went on to point out that elections should have been held on March 21, 2019 following the December passage of the Opposition- sponsored motion, but also said the process was on “pause”, pending the legal proceedings.
That process, Saunders had clearly said, was no longer on pause following the court’s June 18, 2019 ruling, which upheld the validity of the no-confidence motion and thus triggered the need for fresh elections.
In keeping with the constitutional three months’ provision, this means general and regional elections should be held on or before September 18, 2019.