Special meeting for Thursday to determine GECOM’s timelines for elections

A decision has been taken for a special meeting to be held on Thursday, when matters pertaining to the Guyana Elections Commission’s readiness for the next elections will be discussed.
This decision came out of a meeting of the Commission held on Tuesday and

PPP/C Commissioner Robeson Benn

convened by the Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson. It was Patterson’s first day back on the job after medical leave.
According to People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Commissioner Robeson Benn, not only was the meeting set for Thursday, but an update was given about the meeting that is supposed to take place between Patterson and the National Assembly’s two Chief Whips – the Opposition’s Gail Teixeira and the Government’s Amna Ally.
“On Thursday morning at 9, the Commission will reconvene to discuss the various timelines in terms of when elections could be held. And by then or thereafter, we will be in a better position in respect of meetings with the Chief Whips,” Benn explained.
“We didn’t have any documentation in terms of any situation which could advance the meeting… we only got a letter today to which the Chairman had replied to (Government Chief Whip) Amna Ally. She had written the Chairman on the 10th, pointing out the need for the meeting. He replied on the 14th. Unfortunately, we only saw that letter today.”
It turns out that it was, in fact, the Chairman who paved the way for electoral matters to be discussed. According to Commissioner Benn, a report is expected to

PPP/C Commissioners
Sase Gunraj

be prepared and submitted by GECOM’s technical staff.
“What did happen is that the Chairman suspended the agenda and allowed for the questions relating to GECOM’s readiness for elections,” the Commissioner further explained, adding that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield will have to present the relevant information to the Commission.
According to Commissioner Bibi Shadick, the report will contain details regarding the time needed to complete various measures for preparing for elections. Meanwhile, Commissioner Sase Gunraj noted that when that report is presented, the Commissioners will have a report of their own based on the information provided.
“As you are aware, we at the Commission level have to get a report from the Secretariat. We’ve put a system in place whereby the CEO will prepare that report for us. Hopefully, we have that within 24 hours. We will go through that report. Thereafter, you will get a full, more comprehensive report from us on what is going on,” Gunraj added.
It had been agreed at a meeting between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo earlier this month that the Chief Whips would be sent to ascertain GECOM’s readiness for elections.
But the GECOM Chairman had had his medical leave extended and since this assignment was given to the Chief Whips, GECOM CEO Lowenfield had declined to meet with them and had instead deferred to Patterson.
Now that election matters will finally be ventilated at GECOM, it is expected that this meeting will be set and the President be given information with which an election date can be set.
On December 21, the no-confidence motion brought by the parliamentary Opposition –PPP/C – against the Government succeeded when former Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian Charrandas Persaud broke ranks and made a conscience vote in favour of the motion.
With the Government’s defeat, the next steps are spelt out in the Constitution of Guyana. Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “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.”
Meanwhile, clause 7 goes on to state that “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.”
Since the passage of the motion, however, persons aligned with the coalition have sought to question the motion’s validity even as the vote has already been certified. These arguments formed part of the opinions presented to Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland in the hopes that he would reverse the ruling. He refused to do so.
Amid calls to resign, Government has insisted it is going nowhere until elections are held. A court case was filed, in which an order was sought to, among other things, delay the elections until the court rules on the matter.
That and other related cases came up for hearing last Tuesday, but acting Chief Justice Roxane George committed to a ruling by the end of this month, while noting that such an order would be unnecessary.