Illegal “Cabinet” to meet next Tuesday on elections timeline – AFC’s Ramjattan
As the country anxiously awaits the announcement of a date for General and Regional Elections, the coalition Cabinet has not met to discuss the February 2020 timeline given by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for the hosting of polls.
On Thursday GECOM Chair (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh wrote President David Granger, informing him that the Elections Commission will be ready to host “credible elections” by the end of February 2020.
The Head of State subsequently told the media that he would first discuss the letter with his Cabinet before commenting on it.
However, Khemraj Ramjattan, the leader of the Alliance for Change (AFC) – the minority party in the governing coalition – said that no such meeting has been held as yet.
“There was no Cabinet meeting [on Thursday] as far as I’m aware. The President did meet a couple Ministers and we’re gonna meet as a Cabinet, I understand, on Tuesday,” he told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
According to Ramjattan, he does not know when the Head of State will be announcing a date for the hosting of polls while adding that is an exclusive preserve of the President.
In her letter to the President, the GECOM Chair states: “Given all the objective factors, in addition to the deliberations of the Commission and my most recent consultations with our Secretariat, I have concluded, and take this opportunity to officially inform you that the Guyana Elections Commission will be able to deliver credible elections by the end of February 2020.”
However, this timeline comes on the heels of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Opposition pushing to have elections before the end of 2019.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said he is “surprised” and “disappointed” with the timeline especially since only last week Justice Singh gave assurances to both Opposition and Government delegations that they are working towards an elections timeline before the end of the year.
“We’re extremely disappointed with the date but happy that the excuse has been taken away from the caretaker President. So he no longer can blame GECOM for his unconstitutional acts of staying in office illegally,” Jagdeo said at his weekly press conference.
Nevertheless, the Opposition Leader contended that while the party does not agree with her timeline, it still has faith in the fairness and impartiality of the GECOM Chair and her ability to deliver credible elections.
At the same time, however, he expressed reservations about other actors within the elections body, whom he said have been working to sabotage the hosting of early elections.
“There are individuals in that [Elections] Secretariat that we don’t trust. We’ve already spoken to the international community because having seen their performance in the last several months about how their timelines have all been extended and how they match APNU (A Partnership for National Unity – the majority party in the coalition) and how they disappear, we don’t believe they will fully support the Chairperson or give her proper advice. In fact, that is a big concern of ours,” he posited.
Nonetheless, Jagdeo noted that while they are disappointed in the advice given by the GECOM Chair, the PPP is going to work hard to ensure that elections are held by the end of February 2020 not anytime later.
On this note, he outlined that one good thing coming out of this extended timeline is the additional time that observers, both overseas and local, will have to scrutinise the preparation process for the hosting of elections.
Furthermore, Jagdeo noted that while the coalition will have another two months more to squat and enjoy the perks of the office, the PPP will use this time to ensure Guyanese on the ground across the country are educated about their transgressions and their lack of respect for the Constitution.
“So we’re a bit disappointed [about the timeline] but we’re patient too,” the Opposition Leader asserted.
The February 2020 timeline submitted by GECOM will take elections to more than one year after the December 2018 passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against the APNU/AFC coalition Government. It will also be one month shy of one year when early elections were constitutionally due, that is, March 21, 2019.
According to Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution of Guyana, upon the passage of a motion of no-confidence, the Cabinet including the President shall resign and call elections within three months. However, with the legal challenges which ensued, that timeline was on pause but was subsequently reinstated after the July 18, 2019 Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling, which validated the passage of the motion.
Noting that Article 106 is clear, the Trinidad-based regional court also stated that both the Government and GECOM have the responsibility to abide by the constitutional provisions regarding the hosting of early elections.