PPP blisters coalition Govt’s “duplicity” on GECOM
The Parliamentary Opposition has called out the Government for its duplicitous statements regarding the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the no-confidence motion.
In a statement addressing the nation on Friday, President David Granger claimed his Government has been complying with the Constitution and the rulings of the judiciary, and has even been respecting the independence of GECOM.
However, following the address, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party came out with a stinging statement in which it pointed out to the Granger-led administration that GECOM has not done anything to demonstrate its independence since the passage of the no- confidence motion on December 21, 2018, which should have triggered elections within three months.
“The President’s claim that he has urged the ‘readiness’ of GECOM to conduct ‘credible elections at the earliest possible time runs contrary to the actions of Coalition-appointed GECOM Commissioners, who have been insisting on national house- to-house registration – a process that would delay Elections until 2020,” the PPP statement noted.
The party added that holding of General and Regional Elections is not of paramount importance for the Granger-led Government. It added that
for the President to claim he is acting “responsibly, not recklessly, because he did not receive “guidance” from GECOM to allow him to proclaim a date for Elections – having met with GECOM on March 8, 2019 – is another fiction, as that meeting largely focused on national house-to-house registration.”
The PPP also noted that, at the very meeting, President Granger rejected a work plan put forward by the Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners, which had proposed the holding of General and Regional Elections on April 29, 2019.
“The President has insisted that he is waiting on GECOM to be ready, while his own Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, has said that GECOM is waiting on the President to name a date before it can begin to ready itself for Elections,” Jagdeo noted in the statement. “The President’s comments on the issue of GECOM underscore the duplicity with which he continues to act on this issue.”
This duplicity, the PPP said is evidenced when the President claims that GECOM is ‘insulated from political interference’ – when in fact it is none other than the President who violated the balance of GECOM by unilaterally appointing a GECOM Chairman and transforming GECOM into a partisan body that dances to the tune of his Government.
The Opposition cited as an example GECOM’s actions when it initially declared on December 27, 2018 that it would be ready to deliver Elections. Following this declaration, it backpedalled on that position weeks later.
“The Office of the Opposition Leader maintains that President Granger abdicated his responsibility to name a date for General and Regional Elections when he, without constitutional cover, hides behind GECOM and says that it is the Commission that must determine an elections date. GECOM is subservient to the Constitution.”
According to the PPP, the President talks about ‘collaboration’, but has not acted in good faith when engaging the Parliamentary Opposition. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo proposed an option that would have seen Elections being held on or before April 30, 2019 – and made clear that if the proposal was accepted the Opposition would support an extension of the Government’s life in office. This was rejected by President Granger,” the Opposition revealed.
It added that after March 21, the coalition Government becomes “unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal.” Sole responsibility for this impending constitutional crisis, according to the Parliamentary Opposition, rests with President Granger and his Government.
Defiance of judiciary
The Parliamentary Opposition also made it clear that despite Government claiming it respects the judiciary, it is still in defiance of Chief Justice (acting) Roxane George’s ruling that cabinet is resigned. Instead, a plenary of Ministers with the power of cabinet is still being used.
“The Chief Justice also ruled that ‘the President and the Ministers cannot therefore remain in Government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with Article 106 Sub Article 7, unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of said Article 106 Sub Article 7.’
Therefore, the President’s claim that his Government “continues to comply” with the ruling of the Chief Justice (ag) is another fallacy,” it stated.
According to the PPP, the President refers to the January 3, 2019 ruling of House Speaker Dr Barton Scotland selectively, to suggest that the Speaker directed the Government to approach the court. What he fails to admit is that the Speaker refused to reverse his December 21, 2018 ruling (after a ‘request’ made by the Coalition Government) and said: “…a court of competent jurisdiction will place beyond doubt any question which may exist and serve to give guidance to the Speaker and to the National Assembly for the future. The Legislature upheld the validity of the vote on the no-confidence motion,” the statement also read.
Additionally, the party added that the President insists that the legal challenges were not “calculated to frustrate the implications of the no-confidence vote”, but it is clear that the cases advanced represent an abuse of the judicial process. The President claims that the Government’s move to legal action was a move to bring clarity to “contentious” issues. On this point, the party said, it must be underscored that:
*Prior to the vote on the no-confidence motion, the Government claimed that their 33 votes would be enough to protect them – after the vote, questionable mathematics relative to 33 not being a majority of 65 found its way into Government’s legal arguments; and
* Prior to the vote on the no-confidence motion, Charrandas Persaud’s votes were validated by the Coalition Government itself; after the vote, the legitimacy of Charrandas Persaud sitting in Parliament found its way into Government’s legal arguments.
The Parliamentary Opposition also debunked the President’s statement that GECOM would need additional funding, noting that the very Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (Amendment) of 2015 that he signed into law allows GECOM to use money from its lump sum for the elections.
The Opposition also reiterated that the life of the Coalition Government can only be extended by a two-thirds vote in the National Assembly.
“If there is no such vote, the life of the Government ends; the maximum timeline set by the Constitution (three months after the passage of the no-confidence motion) will have expired. The clock has been ticking since December 21, 2018, and there has been no stay of that timeline by the Court,” the party said.
It added that the President’s failure to address the fundamental issues has been addressed by the Parliamentary Opposition repeatedly, and the Guyanese people have “witnessed the disparity between the platitudes offered and the actions of the Granger-led Government.”