…after Commission puts house-to-house registration on agenda
The three PPP Commissioners at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) walked out of a meeting held at the Commission on Tuesday after realising that the matters on the agenda for the statutory meeting had nothing to do with Regional and General Elections but rather, house-to-house registration.
Moments after walking out of the meeting, PPP Commissioner Sase Gunraj told the media that the house-to-house registration is a policy that was taken from time to time by GECOM while the requirement to hold general elections is mandated by the Constitution of Guyana.
“I say that to say that the necessity to hold elections obviously trumps the need for house-to-house registration and we are not being pushed in the direction that house-to-house registration has to be held before the holding of national elections as is mandated by law. No discussions, no discussions are being put forward at this Commission in relation to the holding of elections. All that is being spoken about is the conduct of some house-to-house registration and the Commission seems hell bent on pushing forward on that agenda,” Gunraj explained.
He stated that he, along with the other PPP Commissioners, could not “sit there and suborn the violation of the Constitution” by engaging in any discussion that does not countenance the holding of elections in the constitutionally mandated timeline.
“There is absolutely no discussion on that and as a consequence we are forced to take this step again because we will not be held hostage to sit in these meetings and discuss anything that does not cater for the holding of elections as is contemplated by the Commission and instead to discuss something that is determined by policy that is now being trumped to the holding of elections,” he added.
Meanwhile, another PPP Commissioner at GECOM, Robeson Benn, stated that he requested that GECOM cease and desist from undertakings relating to house-to-house registration and to take account of the constitutional imperatives based on the no-confidence motion passed in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018.
“There were responses, or the main response from the other side, which only suggests that there is…a malignant spirit, and in GECOM, in certain places, which do not want us to follow the dictates of our Constitution. We could not sit there and allow the overriding purpose and intent of the Constitution [to] be completely ignored at GECOM. That is why we agreed to the position, we could not sit there at GECOM, which is subordinate to the Constitution that it will ignore or be made to ignore or force to ignore the dictates of Guyana’s Constitution,” Benn argued.
Additionally, he noted that the Chairman of GECOM, Justice James Patterson, has in his secretariat, skilled and knowledgeable persons as well as legal recourse that are able to advise him on this matter and that they need to reconsider the option of pursuing house-to-house registration instead of focusing on general elections.
“Here it is that the person (Justice Patterson) who has been appointed out of an interest in his legal background for whatever worth it is, is avoiding the interrogation and the following of the Constitution in a simple constitutional matter and duty of a constitutional agency. So there is no way we can sit down and be a party to that so we left,” Benn also said.
The PPP Commissioners stated that the only way of “going forward” would be to have all Commissioners at GECOM commence discussions on the pressing issue of Regional and General Elections in Guyana as is constitutionally mandated.
On December 21, 2018, the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) against the Government succeeded when former AFC Member of Parliament Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
Since its toppling, the David Granger Administration has not been moving with much urgency with regard to holding elections before the constitutional deadline of March 21.
Instead, their respective GECOM Commissioners, including the Chair, have been advocating for house-to-house registration to sanitise the voters’ list, a process which would go well beyond the constitutional deadline.