A critical meeting yesterday between Government and the Opposition did not bear fruit, with President David Granger stating that he will be meeting with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to be advised on a date for polls.
The meeting was later described by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, as a futile affair. (See related story on page 7)
With the diplomatic community warning that the current delays in finding a solution are hampering investments, and the business community complaining over what they say is a sharp drop in business, there is not good news…there appears to be no imminent end.
Shortly after the meeting at the Ministry of the Presidency, President Granger and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who was also part of the team that met with Jagdeo and his group, issued a statement, describing the meeting as “fruitful”.
It was a sharp contrast to what Jagdeo said later.
“I am happy to say that the engagement between the Government side and the Opposition side was very useful and very fruitful. Both sides are working towards the solution of the issues which now confront us and I think we had a very positive approach. As you know there are four processes taking place; one is the importance of the National Assembly; second is the judicial process; third is the executive process and fourth is GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission),” the President asserted.
According to Granger, the engagement yesterday morning, focused largely on the role of GECOM, because it is an independent agency, which could determine when elections would be held.
“The President or the Executive or anybody, cannot intervene, cannot intrude, cannot interfere with the work of GECOM, so we have to allow GECOM to do its work. In that regard, the Leader of the Opposition was insistent that a date be set and he is in all fairness, prepared to vary the date based on a vote by the National Assembly.”
Granger pointed out that on February 25, he had written the Chairman of GECOM, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson, indicating that he is prepared to enter consultations with him.
This, the President disclosed, was to ensure that “credible elections” are held in a short a time as possible.
“…and I would like to meet him again…In fact, I would like to meet the entire Commission to determine what their needs are in terms of time and money. So, the door is open, the Leader of the Opposition has agreed to meet again. The people of Guyana could be assured that we are working to ensure that credible elections are held in as short a time as possible.”
The president did not give a date, but insisted that there is no crisis.
“There are issues which have to be resolved and most of those issues will depend on what I hear from GECOM when I consult them and I will ask the Minister
of State to speak about those consultations.”
According to Harmon, in the President’s letter to the Chairman of GECOM on February 25, the very last paragraph of that letter indicated that the President would meet with GECOM on consultations with respect to their readiness for the conduct of elections.
More importantly, the Minister stressed, the financial resources that are required and the timeline that is required were noted to be the big issues.
“Our understanding from the Whips, who met with GECOM, is that they have a timeline when things are to be done and it is that timeline that we’ll have to address – their own readiness for an election. The President has instructed that GECOM be advised about an early meeting….”
He said that he will be following up to determine when best, within the next three to four days, GECOM can say about their readiness to deliver credible elections.
“I think this is important, the President spoke about… it is about delivering credible elections and not just any elections that will end up creating more confusion than they solve problems.”
According to Granger, GECOM is an autonomous body.
“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, as the Minister of State has pointed out, we will arrange this as quickly as possible so that the Guyanese people could be satisfied that we are moving towards elections.”
He said that based on what will take place in the courts, and in the National Assembly, Guyana is 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.”
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