By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
“Fraud! This is nothing more but fraud, they are not misleading one person; they are misleading an entire country.”
That was the assertion of Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday at his weekly press conference.
When he yelled, “fraud” Jagdeo was referring to the existence of two letters addressed to the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on the same day. Both letters were written by President David Granger.
The letters were written just a few days ago—February 25.
The following day, the Ministry of the Presidency announced that President Granger had written to GECOM in response to a letter GECOM had sent, informing of the constraints being faced by the Commission, causing it to not be ready for elections.
The Ministry released a copy of the letter sent by the President.
The letter read, “I have noted that GECOM, as a constitutional agency, would require a new appropriation of funds approved by the National Assembly for the conduct of General and Regional Elections. I now write you in that context for us to initiate consultations on the readiness of GECOM for the conduct of General and Regional Elections.”
It turns out that that was not the only letter sent by Granger.
Another was sent to the GECOM Chairman, and this is the one that PPP members on GECOM have in their possession.
That letter reads, “The Government is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that the Commission is provided with the financial resources and has sufficient time to conduct credible elections. I urge the Commission, therefore, to commence preparations for the conduct of GRE (General and Regional Elections). The Government will initiate measures to provide the funds required and to seek the approval of the National Assembly to ensure that an agreement can be reached, given both the Constitutional requirements and GECOM’s capability.”
While it seems to be a case of government reneging on an official position and sending another letter that does not give GECOM clear instructions to prepare for elections, Jagdeo thinks otherwise.
He thinks that the government is committing fraud, as it tried to replace the first letter (the one instructing preparations), with another which seeks to merely assess GECOM’s readiness.
Jagdeo told the media, “One document was presented to the Commissioners and another document is on the website of the Ministry of the Presidency… this is fraudulent behaviour.”
Jagdeo said that, as a result of the deception, the Guyanese people were misled into thinking that GECOM was not instructed to commence preparations for the conduct of General and Regional Elections.
He said, “When this country thought that we were moving forward, the second letter takes us back to old arguments… it only talks about discussions.”
He added, “…the first letter was explicit…three critical issues were dealt with, including constitutional compliance, instructions for GECOM to start preparations for elections.”
According to him, the credibility of the Government and President Granger himself is at stake. “This overshadows everything else… How can you engage with a government of this nature in good faith? This is a national scandal,” he said.
After Jagdeo’s press conference, a missive was released to the media in the name of GECOM Commissioner (PPP) Sase Gunraj.
Gunraj said that, at a Statutory Meeting of GECOM held the day after the letters were sent to the Chairman, one letter circulated.
Gunraj stated, “The letter, inter alia, urged the Guyana Elections Commission to commence preparations for the holding of General and Regional Elections.”
He said that yesterday, Jagdeo drew his (Gunraj’s) and his colleagues’ attention to the existence of a second letter, purportedly under the hand of President David Granger, also dated the 25th of February, 2019.
Gunraj said that PPP Commissioner Bibi Shadick made contact with the Office of the Chairman of GECOM and requested a copy of correspondence received by the Chairman from the President.
An email was received from the Office of the Chairman of GECOM at 1:07 pm on the 28th February, 2019, in which the one letter was attached.
Then, at a meeting of the Commission held yesterday at 3pm, “an inquiry was made about the existence of a second letter, and the Chairman only then confirmed the existence of a second letter, and copies were hurriedly made and provided to Commissioners.”
Gunraj stressed that no previous mention was made of the second letter, nor was any effort made to present copies thereof to Commissioners. He said that, at the meeting yesterday, “A discussion on the content of this second letter ensued and upon inquiry, the Chairman responded that it was not his opinion that the second letter superseded the first.”
But, APNU Commissioner Vincent Alexander then tendered the view that it did supersede the first, said Gunraj.
“Thereafter, a request was made by Commissioner Shadick for the Secretariat to provide a plan for preparation for the holding of elections, in keeping with the urging of the President. At this point, Commissioners Alexander and Trotman insisted that any such plan must include House to House Registration,” said Gunraj.
He continued, “This flies in the face of the urgent need, as prescribed by the Constitution of Guyana, to hold elections within three (3) months of the successful passage of a vote of no confidence. Further, it can only be seen as another act in the series of dilatory tactics employed by certain Commissioners and the Secretariat of GECOM to derail this important and constitutionally mandated timeframe. It is become very obvious that there was no plan to be discussed regarding the preparation for elections, we were left no option but to walk out of the meeting.”
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