Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is adamant that elections can be held within three months, despite claims by the Guyana Elections Commission that the earliest possible date would be some time in November.
During a press briefing at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition Leader yesterday, Jagdeo related that he is pleased with the rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The court ruled yesterday that the No-Confidence motion of December 21, 2018 was validly passed, and that the appointment by President David Granger of Justice (ret’d) James Patterson as the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was flawed and unconstitutional.
“What we are happy about is that the Caribbean Court of Justice has just disclosed a victory for Constitutional rule in Guyana.” Jagdeo said.
However, he added that there is no room for “triumphalist gloating by the People’s Progressive Party”.
The move now by the PPP is to kick into campaign mode, he said, and that starts today.
He said that the ruling now means that there will be a “sprint” toward elections.
“Today the final Court has spoken and we will be intolerant about anything that has nothing to do with holding Elections.”
The Opposition Leader was asked whether the three-month timeline he gave would be sufficient for the cleansing of the Official List of Electors (OLE) and the appointment of a new chairman for GECOM.
He said that it would be sufficient, but did not explain how that would play out, explaining that he wants to wait on the Consequential Orders from the CCJ to direct Government and Opposition on a principled way forward. Those orders are slated to be made by the CCJ on Monday, June 24, 2019.
Multiple commissioners at GECOM had informed this publication that the qualifying date for the OLE is October 31, 2019. This means that General and Regional Elections can’t be held before November.
But Jagdeo firmly opposes this view.
Even with the timeline Jagdeo gave yesterday, he said that it does not mean that government should have a pass. “The count can’t start from today. The count must start from when the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed, which was the 21st of December; the three months from that date, and that ended in March of this year.” Jagdeo said.
At this juncture, Jagdeo said that the PPP hopes the staff of GECOM and the commissioners abide by the ruling and hold early elections.
He recalled a statement earlier yesterday by the President, which included mention of a November date for elections, and advocacy for House-to-House Registration.
President Granger called the list corrupted, and said that it may have as much as 200,000 incorrect entries.
The President also said that persons who have recently turned 18 years old are not on the list.
Jagdeo said that this is false, and that persons registered from the age of 14 during the last continuous registration process of July 2018 are on the list. He further said that the November timeline is not acceptable, and that the President is “divorced from the reality of Constitutional rule”; an indication that the President is using these contentions as excuses to “hang on to office”.
He added that the President’s discretion to freely declare a date for elections is diminished when a vote of No Confidence is passed, since the Constitution gives a three-month timeline in this case, adding that the President has to follow the law.
The Opposition Leader called on the international community to take a strong position on respect for democracy, now that the final court has ruled.
He also commented on several other consequences of the motion; the legality of Government’s actions after March 21, 2019, i.e. the three month deadline for elections, after the passing of the motion.
“[What this means is that] the government has been illegal since March 21, 2019”.
Jagdeo read a release from the CCJ on the matter, which states “… Guyana’s Constitution states that the Cabinet including the President, is required to resign if the government is defeated by the majority vote of all the elected members of the National Assembly on ‘a vote of confidence’”
He said that the only reason Government should have stayed in office was to hold elections.
Jagdeo noted that, in the past few months, government awarded contracts, conducted outreaches, passed the Natural Resource Fund Act, and made amendments to several acts in the National Assembly, including one that gave a series of public organisations a total $7.9B supplement.
He said, “This government has not acted, since December of last year in a caretaker capacity. What it has done is business as usual.”
All of these things will be considered illegal under a PPP government, he noted, but whether he would seek to reverse contracts and amendments to the law has not yet been decided. The PPP is now seeking legal advice to determine how practical it would be to make certain reversals.
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