President promises Carter Center not to ‘dilly dally’ on GECOM’s advise
…as PPP calls out Granger for bad faith, failure to comply with Constitution
The Carter Center representatives, who are in Guyana to get a perspective on the elections situation, met with President David Granger on Monday. There, the President assured them that there would be no more delays once the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) advises him on holding elections.
According to the Ministry of the Presidency, Granger was accompanied in the meeting by Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and Minister of State Dawn Hastings.
The Carter Center was represented by Associate Director of Democracy Programmes, Brett Lacy; senior adviser and international electoral expert, Carlos Valenzuela; legal analyst, Anne Marlborough and political adviser, Nicholas Jahr.
Last week, the Carter Center representatives had met with Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo and the Chair and Commissioners of the Elections Commission.
In an address to the nation following the meeting, Granger repeated the substance of previous statements, that GECOM is an independent agency and that he has to await advice from GECOM before he can name an election date.
“I am committed to providing governmental assistance to the Commission to ensure that the forthcoming elections will not be contaminated by mismanagement or malpractice,” President Granger said in his statement.
The President went on to then claim that he acted expeditiously throughout the year to ensure that General and Regional Elections are held. To support this claim, he cited his consultations with GECOM and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, as well as his belated appointment of GECOM Chair, retired Justice Claudette Singh.
Bad faith, failure
The People’s Progressive Party wasted little time in responding to Granger’s claims in his address to the nation. The party said that while GECOM is indeed an independent agency, it is not independent of the Constitution of Guyana.
“The caretaker President conveniently ignores this fact and attempts to convey the impression that GECOM, being an independent body, can afford to ignore its obligation to comply with the Constitution of Guyana.”
The party stated that in its order after ruling that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed on December 21, 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), on July 12, 2019, was clear that: “The Guyana Elections Commission (“GECOM”) has the responsibility to conduct that election and GECOM too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution.”
Countering the President’s assertion that he has acted expeditiously to conduct elections, the PPP noted that Granger has, in fact, done nothing to comply with the constitutional provisions that were activated when he lost a No-Confidence Motion last year.
“The Caribbean Court of Justice had ordered that the provisions of Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution apply to a No-Confidence Motion, and that upon the passage of this motion of no confidence in the Government, the clear provisions of Article 106 immediately became engaged. The caretaker President remains deliberately oblivious to this order.”
According to the party, as per Article 106 of the Constitution, the Cabinet has not resigned. “Also, the Granger-led Government has not been acting in a caretaker capacity – rather it has been deliberately delaying the elections while engaging in a heist of taxpayers’ monies and public resources in the most corrupt acts our people have seen in Guyanese history.”
No expeditious move
The party also pointed out the fallacy of the President claiming that he is acting expeditiously to hold elections, when his party’s representatives on GECOM – Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, are continuously pushing proposals that do the opposite.
“The caretaker President claims that he acted “expeditiously” to ensure that credible and regional elections are held and to substantiate this, he referred to the meetings that led to the appointment of a new GECOM Chairperson. The caretaker President seems to have selective amnesia, forgetting that it was his illegal action – the unilateral appointment of a GECOM Chairman – that led to the need for a new appointment in the first place. “
“The caretaker President talks up his assurance in the actions of his Commission to ready itself for constitutionally mandated General and Regional Elections – which ought to have been held since March 21, 2019 – even as his minions at the Elections Commission advance actions that will delay elections. How then can the Commission act expeditiously to advise on its readiness for elections?”
The fact that it is the President who has to set an election date within the confines of the Constitution and that it is GECOM who must be prepared and hold elections by that date, rather than the other way around, has been put forward by legal luminaries for months.
Article 61 of the Constitution states that “An election of members of the National Assembly… shall be held on such day within three months after every dissolution of Parliament as the President shall appoint by proclamation”.
The President has not even made any moves to dissolve Parliament, a necessary prequel to the holding of elections. The law says nothing about GECOM advising the President on when he can call elections or dissolve Parliament. But when questioned about this, Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon had also insisted that GECOM has to advise the President before he can dissolve Parliament or make moves towards calling elections.
A GECOM meeting is scheduled for today, where it is anticipated that the Chairperson will make a pronouncement as to an election timeframe, after weeks of meeting the full Commission.