Jagdeo to make one more good-faith attempt to avert constitutional crises

…to meet with President today
…as Granger agrees to Opposition Leader’s terms for meeting

Today will mark one of the most crucial meetings yet to take place between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, as both parties have agreed to engage in meaningful discussions aimed at ironing out issues specifically related to setting a date for the next General Elections.
The meeting is set to take place at 11:00h at the Ministry of the Presidency. News of this confirmed meeting was received late Tuesday evening, when Minister of State Joseph Harmon responded to a letter from Jagdeo setting out certain conditions under which he was willing to meet with the President.
Harmon said, “The content of these letters have been conveyed to the President who advises that he is prepared to meet with you on Wednesday, March 6 at 11:00h at the Ministry of the Presidency and to discuss the issues raised in your aforementioned letters,” the Opposition quoting a section of the letter they received.
In a missive written to Harmon on Monday, March 4, Jagdeo said the parliamentary Opposition agreed to extend the deadline for General and Regional Elections, but only if the Government adheres to certain requests, including having elections before the expiry of the current voters’ list on April 30, 2019.
As part of that arrangement, the Opposition Leader has proposed that no new contracts should be awarded by the State, after March 21, 2019, when the Government becomes unconstitutional.
Further, Jagdeo is requesting that no new agreements, loans, grants, land leases, or any other such agreements or contracts be signed after March 21, 2019. In addition, he wants no abuse of State resources for partisan activities/purposes; and access of the State-owned media by all contesting political parties.
The Opposition Leader stated in his correspondence to the President his party’s willingness to lend its support for the two-thirds majority required for an extension beyond March 21, 2019. However, Jagdeo asserted that the Opposition would only agree to that if the Government agrees to those terms.
Following the passage of the No-confidence Motion on December 21, 2018, elections are to be held within three months according to the Constitution; that is, by March 21, 2019. The only way this deadline for the polls can be extended is through a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly, which demands concurrence by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP); otherwise, the Government becomes illegal.
But the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has insisted that it is unprepared to hold elections before the constitutionally due deadline. As such, Jagdeo informed the President that his proposal to have before April 30, 2019, is “reasonable” and “feasible” with a claims and objections period, “provided that GECOM acts in good faith and in conformity with its mandate and the Constitution”.
Jagdeo had said in that missive if the President finds favour with the proposal, he will meet with him today as requested, to which the President has agreed to. But he also proposed that the meeting focus exclusively on the date for these elections. The Opposition Leader however reminded that the date by which the Government becomes illegal is fast approaching.

However, the Opposition said it is the view of many people that nothing positive will come out of the meeting today given the track-record of duplicity of the Granger Administration thus far.
“The Opposition Leader shares some of these misgivings. Nevertheless, having been approached by many Guyanese, civil society bodies and members of the diplomatic corps to make one last attempt to avert the constitutional crisis that the President, with a complicit GECOM, is leading our nation into, the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to make one more good-faith attempt in the interest of the nation, and, will attend the meeting,” a statement from the Opposition added.

The Opposition said this will be the last attempt by the parliamentary Opposition to offer the Government a way out of the constitutional crisis and to keep Guyana in the democratic fold of nations.
It said if the meeting fails, the true nature of the Government will be seen by all those who urged the Opposition Leader to meet.
“Tomorrow (today) will be a test of the integrity, credibility and sincerity of the President; he will be tested as to whether he can be trusted “as a man of his word” to put our nation, its future and its people first on a foundation of constitutional and parliamentary democracy. This will be a test as to whether the Constitution or ‘power lust’ wins out,” it asserted.

Respect the Constitution
Last week, Jagdeo made clear his intention that he does not plan to meet with the President unless an election date is announced by him. He said the two agenda items listed in the missive are issues that are covered by the Constitution and therefore he sees no need to be meeting on those issues.
“It is a waste of time to go there for another PR (public relations) opportunity where we shake hands and people believe oh, everything is going fine, we’re in a normal situation. Unless election and the time and elections date are on the agenda, there’ll be no meeting,” he asserted.
Jagdeo noted that the Constitution provides for the role of the National Assembly and for the funding and gives GECOM the discretion to use the funds that they have at their disposal which is a lump-sum.
When questioned as to whether he thinks he should attend the meeting in the interest of the country and its people, the Opposition Leader responded saying he will not accede to any act of bullyism and dictatorship. Rather, the Government should respect the Constitution.
“Moving this country forward can only be done in a context where we respect our Constitution and the laws of Guyana. It can’t be done with impunity when one side believes they can violate every law, every ruling of the court and when the time comes, use patriotism,” Jagdeo added.
Initially, Jagdeo said his party will not support an extension to the time for the holding of elections beyond the 90-day period following the passage of the No-confidence Motion.
GECOM had given July as a timeline for the hosting of elections, but at the same time, it stated that the present voters’ list would expire on April 30.
Although the Opposition has been calling for elections within the constitutional time frame, which the GECOM chair accepted in his letter to the President, the Government claimed that it was up to GECOM’s readiness that determines the date. Even without the Commission voting for house-to-house registration, the Commission has placed ads to facilitate this six-month process without the concurrence of the PPP Commissioners. (Samuel Sukhnandan)