Jagdeo, Granger to meet today on election preparations, other issues
– civil society bodies concerned about political situation
On December 21, 2018, the No-confidence Motion brought by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo brought down the entire Government by a 33 to 32 vote majority. Today, President David Granger will come face to face with Jagdeo for their first meeting since that historic event.
Their meeting, which will take place at the Ministry of the Presidency at 11:00h, is expected to address a number of concerns, including not only how we act in the 90 days period and preparation for elections in compliance with the Constitution of Guyana but also given that all the parties have constituencies, to start exploring post-elections possibilities of working together in the interest of Guyana and its citizens.
However, 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.”
Even though less than 90 days remain in which elections must be held, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has made no significant moves towards preparing for holding elections.
There has been no word on the necessary appointments of polling day staff that must be made, or the observer groups that must be brought on board. Parties must also be registered and Proportional Representation lists submitted. There has been no word on this, though several new political parties have sprung up across the country.
For its part, GECOM has said President David Granger must initiate these moves by writing to the Commission proposing a date for elections. In the meantime, statutory meetings have been postponed until GECOM Chairman James Patterson returns to take command of his ship. He has, in turn, had his medical leave extended to recover from a recent illness.
The meeting of the two leaders also comes against the backdrop of complaints from Jagdeo that the coalition’s actions following the no-confidence vote have marred the goodwill between their respective parties.
These actions include Government reneging on its promises to respect the no-confidence vote results; results that have been upheld by Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, who was approached by the Government to overturn the vote but refused.
Instead, a court case has been filed by a private citizen, Compton Herbert Reid, seeking to reverse the Government’s loss of the no-confidence vote and also seeking an extension of the 90-day stipulated time in which elections are constitutionally due when a no-confidence motion is passed.
The main contention in Reid’s case is one Government has previously cited, which is that Charrandas Persaud, the former Government parliamentarian who made the motion’s passage possible with his vote, was ineligible to vote because of his dual citizenship.
But since the vote, coalition politicians have gone so far as to throw accusations of bribery at the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), accusations that did not come with evidence and which the Party has rejected.
Government has also embraced an argument that the no-confidence vote was not passed by a majority when 33 out of 65 Members of Parliament voted in favour of it. The original proponent of the 34 vote argument is Attorney Nigel Hughes, a former Alliance For Change Chairman and the husband of sitting Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes.
Hughes told State media that half of 65 is 32.5 but when rounded to the nearest whole number this would be 33 as there is no half member. Since this statement, this formula has been adopted by some and ridiculed by others. It formed the basis of Government’s ultimately rejected case to the Speaker.
Both President Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had previously promised to abide by the constitutional provisions a no-confidence vote mandates. With the Government suddenly backtracking on its words and going to the courts in a bid to stave off early elections, Jagdeo had this to say at recent press conference.
“After the lofty words of the Prime Minister and the President and the commitment to engage on a way forward, we’ve seen the Government retreat into its usual tools, which is wild accusations and confrontation. These are tools that they know very well how to use.”
“And of course, fake news and propaganda to mobilise people, particularly in the [A Partnership for National Unity] APNU base, into believing that they were robbed; having failed to mobilise people to come out in defence of the Government in front the National Assembly,” Jagdeo had also said.
The Opposition Leader had also expressed his belief that Granger, who travelled to Cuba for medical treatment soon after the no-confidence vote, could not have been unaware of his Government’s subsequent attempts to overturn the ruling.
“I think that the President has to bear responsibility for this. We have already expressed our concern for his illness. And he has already received our best wishes. But he is still the head of state.”
“(President Granger) issued a statement before he left, talking about moving forward, respecting the Constitution and a commitment to engagement. His minions and I believe with his approval, have now gone in a totally different direction. So the President has to bear responsibility for this,” the former President had added.
While Granger has not directly addressed the switch, Attorney General Basil Williams has defended the President. When asked at a recent press conference about the Government ‘switching its mouth’ after promising to respect the results of the no-confidence vote, Williams admitted that President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said what they had to say at that time to “keep the peace.”
Ahead of the meeting, a number of prominent civil society organisations had a meeting of their own on Tuesday. There, the groups expressed deep concern over the state of Guyana’s political affairs at this time.
In a statement issued to the media following Tuesday’s meeting, the body said it welcomes the meeting between the Head of State and former President to iron out matters relating to the country’s well-being.
The statement pointed out that “Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana establishes our Government as an inclusive democracy…for the participation of citizens and their organisations in the management and decision making process of the State.” It is because of this, the organizations noted, that they are anticipating that their voices be heard at this time of the country’s history.
The meeting saw representatives from the Transparency Institute of Guyana, Guyana Trade Union Congress, Guyana Public Service Union, Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana, RISE Guyana, Guyana Bar Association, Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana, Citizens’ Initiative, Guyana Agricultural Workers Union, Red Thread, Roman Catholic Church, Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana and the Private Sector Commission.