President to meet GECOM Chair, Commissioners today

With only 11 days to go before the constitutional March 19 deadline for the holding of general and regional elections, President David Granger is set to meet with the Chairman and Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) today to discuss the readiness of the elections body to conduct polls.

President David Granger

In a letter dispatched on Wednesday, GECOM Chairman Justice James Patterson and the six commissioners – both Government and Opposition – were invited to a consultation with the Head of State at 11:00h at the Ministry of the Presidency.
That correspondence was sent by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, on behalf of the President. It read, “I trust that in the National Interest you give this matter the urgent attention it deserves.”
Opposition-nominated Commissioner at GECOM, Sase Gunraj, told Guyana Times that, going into today’s meeting, they are hoping the Head of State fulfills his constitutional obligation and set a date for elections.

PPP GECOM Commissioners Robeson Benn, Bibi Shadick and Sase Gunraj

“We are expecting everyone to act within the confines of the law. We are expecting GECOM to exercise and execute its constitutional mandate to hold elections within the timeframe, as is required by law, which in this case is by the March deadline. We are also expecting the President to do what he is expected to do; that is to say, name a date for elections, as he is mandated by law to do,” Gunraj stated.
The Opposition Commissioner further told this newspaper that there was no meeting at the level of the Elections Commission to prepare for today’s consultation with the President.
This engagement comes some two weeks after GECOM had informed President Granger that it was unable to deliver General and Regional Elections before the constitutional March 19 deadline.
The Head of State had subsequently committed to supporting the elections body in its preparation for polls by providing the necessary funding needed.

Government Commissioners Desmond Trotman, Vincent Alexander and Charles Corbin

On Wednesday, President Granger met with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, following which, the Head of State further committed to having credible elections at the earliest time possible, while insisting, however, that only GECOM can determine when elections are held.
He noted that, “GECOM is an independent agency, and there is no part of the Constitution which gives the President or the Executive in general authority to interfere, intervene or intrude in the work of the Elections Commission.
“So this is a very respectful engagement, and…we will arrange this as quickly as possible, so that the Guyanese people could be satisfied that we are moving towards elections. Of course, based on what will take place in the courts, the National Assembly, we are moving towards elections; but GECOM is in charge of elections, not the Executive. I cannot decide when elections will be held; GECOM has to advise,” the Head of State asserted.
However, Jagdeo told reporters after Thursday’s meeting that he had reminded the President of his duty to uphold the Constitution and call elections.

GECOM Chairman Justice James Patterson

“The President indicated that he is prepared to discuss a date, but GECOM will have to be ready. So I clearly (said) to him that ‘You’re the President of Guyana; you have a duty to uphold the Constitution of Guyana. GECOM is a creature of the Constitution and GECOM cannot override the Constitution…’ The President said, “Why not meet GECOM jointly,” I said to him, ‘No, we have absolutely no interest in meeting GECOM jointly,’ and that he should meet GECOM himself, because he has the duty as President to call elections,” Jagdeo told reports after meeting with the President.
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Jagdeo had proposed that elections be held by April 30, which is when the current voters’ list will expire. However, the parties were unable to arrive at an agreement regarding a date for polls during the hour long meeting.