Representatives of the ABC countries and European Union met with the Guyana Elections Commission yesterday to discuss preparations for General and Regional Elections.
Yesterday, GECOM said that the Chiefs of Mission present were from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and European Union.
“The meeting was held (yesterday) at 10:00hrs in the GECOM boardroom at the request of the diplomatic delegation to meet with the GECOM Commissioners to discuss the agency’s preparations for the conduct of General and Regional Elections.”
There was little other information from the statement on what exactly was discussed.
Present were Terry Steers Conzales, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States of America; Lilian Chatterjee, High Commissioner of Canada; Ray Davidson, Deputy High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, and Philippe Coessens, Minister Counsellor/ Deputy Head of Delegation, European Union.
According to Yolanda Ward, GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, both sides of the Commission – the Government and Opposition-made presentations.
Commissioner for the Opposition, Bibi Shadick, disclosed that the envoys asked several questions.
In cases, she said, the GECOM chairman, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson did not directly answer.
“Basically they were asking GECOM about the work it is doing…and what is stopping them.
It boils down to the things they have been saying all the time, that they don’t have the money.”
The Commission disclosed that it has written President David Granger informing him that they cannot hold elections before March 21 and that they need money.
“Of course, I pointed out that that is not true. That since no confidence vote two months, nothing has been done.”
Shadick said that it was pointed out that the Constitution and the Fiscal Management Accountability Act makes it very clear that money is appropriated for GECOM in a lump sum, after which GECOM has to regulate its spending in a manner it sees fit.
She noted that under regulations one month after the Appropriation Bill is approved, following the budget approval in Parliament, GECOM has to collect the money it had been allocated.
She said that GECOM has not received the billions which means that Government is stymieing the work of the agency.
The Commissioner insisted that in any case, GECOM doesn’t have to go back to Parliament to ask for money. It can spend its allocation as it sees fit.
She said that come May 1, GECOM has made it clear there will not be a new list.
One of the questions asked by the heads to GECOM is if it is the conclusion that the elections are contingent on house-to-house registration.
“They were not answering directly but start talking about sanitizing list, file petitions and unrest.
It is the same thing. I respect the intelligence of those people to read through all that…to see what is the true intent. What is clear is that the chairman is not answering any of these questions.”
The Chairman, a former judge, according to Shadick, was also asked if it was his opinion that he has to wait on the decisions of the higher court before elections.
“One answer he gave is that you have to respect decisions of the court.”
One diplomat even noted that situation in Guyana is inhibiting investments.
“Nobody said anything. The chairman was not answering anything.”
Meanwhile, a government information statement said that there will be no hindrances to moving into elections mode when a date is announced.
While appearing on the National Communications Network (NCN Inc.) programme ‘Context’, GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander explained that until the body is advised on an election date, the commission will be working with its 2019 programme which includes the claims and objections period and house-to-house registration. He emphasised that there will be no “hindrances to GECOM moving into elections mode”.
“The pursuit of the 2019 programme would not inhibit GECOM’s preparation for elections when that date is announced because a major element for the preparation of elections would be the preparation of a list and house-to-house registration would lead such a list,” Alexander said.
He explained that it would be impossible for the body to host elections in 90 days given what is required for efficient elections. He said that it would be “foolhardy” of GECOM to embark on an exercise which it cannot complete in the given timeframe.
The issue of elections became critical after the historic December 21, 2018 no confidence vote which was carried against the government.
However, Government has appealed.
The High Court has ruled that the vote was valid but it is being appealed.
That vote, according to the Constitution, was supposed to have triggered elections within 90 days, but GECOM is saying that it is not ready and that it wants house-to-house registration first, a process that could take months and push elections till next year.
The situation has heavily divided the country.
This year, Guyana is expected to start producing oil.
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