PPP GECOM Commissioners accuse Govt of continuing to delay elections
– as coalition delegation meets with GECOM
A high level team of the Government on Friday met with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on the upcoming General and Regional Elections, but the Opposition-nominated Commissioners are holding out that the administration is bent on delaying the hosting of the election even further.
“It was very clear, from the outset, that the purpose of the meeting was to intimidate the Commission into participating in its ploy to delay elections,” a joint statement from the three People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioners later stated on Friday.
It was noted that there was there no prior request from the Government for a meeting until a Bharrat Jagdeo-led delegation met with the Elections Commission earlier in the week and was given a commitment by the GECOM Chair, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh, for the conduct of elections before the end of the year.
The Opposition Commissioners recalled that during Friday’s meeting, Attorney General Basil Williams, who was among the nine-member delegation, cited the pending appeal against the decision of the Chief Justice in Christopher Ram v Guyana Elections Commission, Attorney General et ors, including the filing of an application for a stay of execution.
“It seems as though he wants to delay the holding of elections until the hearing of this matter, possibly by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)… As was expected, the contributions of the members of the delegation, if implemented, could only lead to further delay,” the missive detailed.
Nevertheless, the PPP-nominated GECOM Commissioners reiterated that elections should be held “in the shortest time possible”, in keeping with not only the constitutional prescriptions in Article 106, but also the admonitions of the CCJ and the Chief Justice rulings in the various cases resulting from the successful passage of the No-Confidence Motion in December 2018.
Article 106 states that upon the passage of a motion of no-confidence, the Cabinet, including the President, shall resign and call election in three months. This meant General and Regional Elections were supposed to be held since March 21, 2019.
The Opposition has been contending that elections can be held long before the end of this year.
However, while the APNU/AFC coalition is being accused of delaying tactics to push the holding of polls to 2020, Chair of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – the leading party in the APNU fraction of the coalition – Volda Lawrence declared that Government is ready for General and Regional Elections should it be held before the end of this year.
Lawrence led the Government delegation to meet the full Elections Commission on Friday, where they were told that efforts are being taken to see whether elections can be held before the end of this year.
The same commitment that was given to an Opposition delegation on Tuesday when they met with the full Elections Commission.
“The Chairperson did say that she had indicated that they are working towards the end of this year to see whether that time frame [and] all the things they have to do – statutory and administration – will allow them to conclude on this matter of elections by the end of the year. But no definite time, they’re still working on their timetable,” Lawrence told reporters after Friday’s meeting.
She explained that the coalition’s purpose of the meeting with the seven-member Commission was to seek clarifications on certain issues and to also lend support to the process of having elections in the earliest time possible.
Lawrence said she reiterated to the Commission Government’s position that there must be “credible elections” using a credible voters’ list and that they were assured that the information from the now scrapped House-to-House Registration process will be used in the upcoming elections as well as provisions for those who did not get to register.
“Basically, we were able also to put forward our case in terms us ensuring that the list is credible, and that persons, who were not allowed to register in the House-to-House Registration, during the Claims period they will be given the opportunity to do so,” she stated.
“We also asked whether they had enough finances and other resources at their disposal given the time factor that is now placed upon them and they have assured us that they are presently looking at that, given the changes that they’re requesting of their many service providers. Of course, the cost will go up so they do not have an initial amount at this time”, the PNC Chair added.
She assured that whatever finances are required by the elections body will be provided. According to Lawrence, the coalition has faith in the GECOM leadership and the Commissioners, and will continue to work and meet with them.
She was accompanied to the meeting by Ministers from both the APNU and AFC fractions. These include: Amna Ally, Basil Williams, Cathy Hughes, David Patterson, Jaipaul Sharma, Sydney Allicock, Keith Scott and Tabitha Sarbo-Halley.
Meanwhile, after the Government delegation left GECOM on Friday, the Commission continued discussions. According to Opposition-nominated Commissioner, Sase Gunraj, one of the issues discussed was in relation to the information obtained during the registration exercise.
GECOM had disclosed that over 370,000 registrants were registered during the now scrapped exercise.
“Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to get an update on the process and the progress that that has made so far. So, we are left again in the lurch, with the absence of information that will help us to come to a decision as soon as possible,” he stated.
Recapping on the meeting with the Government delegation, Gunraj noted that the issues that were raised by visitors were nothing new or nothing outside what is already under the consideration of the Commission.