Jagdeo deems coalition Govt unconstitutional, usurper of power
In light of Chief Justice Roxane George refusing to set a date by which constitutionally-due early elections ought to be held, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has declared that his party – the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) — will now view the coalition Government as unconstitutional.
At his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo explained that this position is being taken since the December 21, 2018 passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) triggered early elections within three months, and since there was no extension by the National Assembly to extend this timeline as required, then General and Regional Elections ought to have been held by March 21, 2019.
“My new position in the PPP and based on this new ruling… [is] since March 21 of this year, the Government has been practicing unconstitutional rule. It has been a usurper of power in Guyana. It has acted outside of the provision of our Constitution. We were prepared to allow this to happen after September 18; to be generous and say after September 18, you go into unconstitutional rule. But if they think this ruling helps now, well it only reiterated what we already know that the Government has been a usurper of power since March 21,” Jagdeo posited.
According to the Opposition Leader, this now means that every deal and agreement made by the coalition since then will become null and void.
“So I saw they’re extending the oil contract – CGX got an extension and I want to say to CGX that that extension is not valid because it was done in a period when we have a caretaker government. I’ve already made it clear that the daily sale of land and all of these things that are being practicing, and not through public processes, are all illegal. And, this is not from June 18 or September 18 but from March 21,” he asserted.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Roxane George dismissed an application filed by Christopher Ram, who challenged the constitutionality of ongoing House-to-House Registration and asked the Court to compel the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, and others to hold elections on or before September 18, which is three months since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) validated the passage of the NCM against the Government.
However, the Chief Justice noted that like the Trinidad-based regional Court ruled, the High Court cannot set a date by which elections ought to be held and that the conduct of House-to-House Registration is not illegal.
But she did note that it would be unconstitutional for the registration exercise to remove qualified persons from the voters’ list for reasons other than death or those disqualified under Article 159 (2), (3), or (4).
Pointing out that the “right to vote and the right to be registered to vote are sacrosanct”, the High Court Judge said “residence requirements from citizens are no longer a qualification for registration”. This means that persons cannot be removed from the list if they do not re-register, or if they are not in the jurisdiction or otherwise not at their residence during the registration exercise.
According to the Opposition Leader, this is a victory for the Opposition, which had joined in on Ram’s legal challenge.
“As far as we’re concerned, we achieved the purpose of what we set out to do, that is, to not have Guyanese de-registered by this APNU-led government. They would’ve done this; developed a flawed list, left out thousands of Guyanese, add in some fake names, and then rushed the elections through. That was their aim… but this [ruling] has thwarted that. They can’t touch the database, the NRR (National Register of Registrants)… So it’s a momentous victory, people don’t see that. And it’s not for the PPP, it’s for the Guyanese electorate,” Jagdeo contended.
Furthermore, the Chief Justice had ruled too that while it is not up to the court to determine whether House-to-House should be held, it is not the only option available to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to update the current list. The Court said it is up to the Elections Commission to determine a way forward within the confines of the constitutional provisions.
But GECOM at a meeting on Thursday did not come up with any decisions on the holding of early elections, saying that it will await the court’s ruling later this month on a similar case challenging the House-to-House exercise before deciding on the way forward.
However, Jagdeo contended that the ongoing registration should be scrapped and the elections body should move to an extended Claims and Objections period during which new qualified persons can get registered.
“That is what is required at this point in time, and urgently so, because we’re not operating in the normal elections cycle as the Chief Justice pointed out,” the Opposition Leader stated.