“Respect Guyana’s Constitution!” – PPP supporters to GECOM
…PPP mulls court action against GECOM’s CEO over breach of court order
Hundreds of People’s Progressive Party supporters gathered outside of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in a massive protest against GECOM’s decision to defy the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling and proceed with House-to-House Registration – scheduled to begin today.
Organised by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), the supporters called on GECOM officials to respect the Constitution and start preparing for the constitutionally due elections.
GECOM’s move to proceed with House-to-House Registration is in defiance of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ’s) ruling, which mandates that the Guyana Constitution be respected. The Constitution unambiguously states that elections must be held in three months after a Government topples to a No-Confidence Motion.
With House-to-House Registration, elections will not be held within the constitutionally stipulated period.
Opposition Leader baffled by CEO’s proclamation
Speaking with the media on the protest lines, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said that he is baffled about the legal basis on which GECOM’s CEO, Keith Lowenfield, is proceeding with the House-to-House Registration.
“GECOM’s lawyer this week advised Mr. Lowenfield against pursuing House-to-House Registration, pointing out that this will conflict with the CCJ’s order. One then has to question his motive to act in contempt of both the CCJ’s order and against the advice of his own Legal Officer”, said the Opposition Leader.
He added that Lowenfield has not even formally informed the PPP about the confirmed start of new House-to-House Registration on Saturday, July 20, 2019, despite the fact that the enumeration forms to be used in the process require the signatures of scrutineers from political parties.
“We in the PPP are now contemplating approaching the Court to prevent this activity by Lowenfield, which is in contempt of the order of the CCJ and in defiance of the Constitution of Guyana. If this wasn’t bad, what is worse is that the planned start of the exercise is done in a manner to exclude scrutiny. Without notice, parties were not given sufficient time to ready a list of over 2,000 scrutineers to ensure that the activity is done in a manner that is above board”, the Opposition Leader explained.
In addition, he added, the “secret” June 11, 2019 Order signed by the illegally appointed GECOM Chairman James Patterson was overtaken by the order of the CCJ on July 12, 2019, and cannot be used as the basis on which House-to-House Registration is pursued.
The CCJ order stated that GECOM must comply with the Constitution; that is: Elections in three months – and GECOM itself had advised the Court that embarking on House-to-House Registration will delay Elections until after December 25, 2019.
Further, Jagdeo added that GECOM should immediately start preparations for updating the last valid List of Electors through a period of Claims and Objections — something that Lowenfield himself, in February 2019, had said could be done to allow any Guyanese who is not registered to be registered, among other transactions.
“GECOM should discontinue any attempt to do House-to-House Registration and pay a lump sum, let’s say $100,000, to all the enumerators who have been trained, for their efforts thus far. GECOM should recall the over 8,000 persons who were trained for the November 2018 Local Government Elections, as well as others, and start the process of training — and where necessary, re-training — for General and Regional Elections”, the Opposition Leader stated.
There can be no acceptance of any action that represents blatant disregard and disrespect of our Constitution, he added.
Meanwhile, PPP Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali said his party intends to fight until the caretaker Government and GECOM respect the ruling of the CCJ and Guyana’s Constitution.
“This Government said that they will win convincingly. I know that if you will win, why is it that you are afraid to call the elections? If you really believe that you have a chance of winning anything, call elections now! And I want to remind Mr Lowenfield that he is not above the law; that he is an ordinary citizen just like all of us, and he must respect the Constitution of our country. And we are going to stand up against his singular attempt to derail the process of democracy,” Ali said in addressing the protesters.
Since the CCJ’s ruling, which validated the passage of the motion on June 18, 2019, the Opposition has been calling for elections by September 18. Though it has been more than a month since the CCJ’s ruling was handed down, there has been no indication from GECOM or President David Granger regarding when fresh elections will be held.
The CCJ ruled on June 18, 2019 that the No-Confidence Motion against the David Granger-led Administration was validly passed on December 21, 2018. This means that Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution of Guyana takes effect.
The clauses read: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence”. And “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election”.
Also calling out the Government was the A New and United Guyana (ANUG) political party, which has urged strict adherence to the CCJ’s decision and for the Government to respect and uphold Article 106 (7) of the Constitution which mandates elections be held within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion.
The party added that GECOM’s House-to-House Registration is without a doubt an act of contempt of court which was deliberate and premeditated.