Guyanese who have not yet applied for foreign visas should consider doing this before September 18, 2019. After this date, there is no guarantee that the international community will treat with the government and its citizens, the same way as they were treated prior to September 18, 2019.
The life of the government expires on September 18, 2019, unless extended by the National Assembly. The support of the Opposition is required to extend the date, and the Opposition has said it will not do so.
The government is playing dumb. It is pretending that there is no drop-dead date. The implicit words of the Caribbean Court of Justice make this clear. There was no need for this to be spelt out in consequential orders, because the court made it clear that there is no need for gloss to interpret the clear provisions of the Constitution.
The commencement of house-to-house registration triggered another challenge in our High Court. The court was asked to declare this as unconstitutional and unlawful.
One has to appreciate the thinking behind this application. The applicant challenged on the constitutionality of house-to-house registration on the ground that house-to-house registration would result in persons already on the list and not dead, being deregistered, by virtue of the fact that they were not present during house-to-house registration, and therefore would not become part of the new database from which the list would be compiled.
According to the action filed, “The Applicant fears that in order to complete this House-to-House Registration within an impossible time frame, it will result in thousands of Guyanese being unlawfully deregistered and will omit to register thousands of qualified registrants, thereby resulting in their loss in their right to vote at the next elections.”
In relation to this point, the Chief Justice has ruled that persons cannot be deregistered by virtue of them not being present during house-to-house registration. As such, the application prevailed on this issue.
The Court has refused to set a date or a deadline for elections. It has ruled, as the CCJ did, that it is within the purview of the Executive arm of the state – meaning the President – to determine the date. The Court, like the CCJ, however, made it clear that there should be compliance with the provisions of the Constitution. It may be tempting to say that the Court was timid and that even though it cannot set a date, it should have set a deadline by which elections should be held if the National Assembly does not extend the date.
The Court, however, cannot pretend to speculate on how the National Assembly or the political actors will behave. As such, it declined to make any orders for either a date or deadline for elections.
The CCJ did not venture outside of its domain and has presumed that the political actors would behave in a matured manner and with respect for the Constitution. It was, however, a presumption which failed to appreciate the nature of the regime in power.
The government has tried every conceivable legal ploy to not comply with Articles 106 and 107 of the Constitution. Those articles called for the resignation of the Cabinet, not the government. Even though Cabinet did resign following a previous ruling by the Chief Justice in January 2019, it has refused to do so now, saying that the CCJ did not order such. But the Chief Justice did state in her ruling – and this was not overturned by the CCJ – that Cabinet is resigned by operation of law following the passage of a no-confidence motion.
The government has also demonstrated that it was prepared to use house-to-house registration to frustrate holding elections within three months. The government says that only house–to-house registration can produce a credible list. But that position is not shared by a top official within the GECOM Secretariat.
In terms of the date for elections, it is GECOM, rather than the President, which is supposed to be concerned with ensuring free, fair and credible elections. So long as it advises the President that it is in a position to conduct elections, he has to call elections within the deadlines set by the Constitution. But GECOM is divided on the issue.
The government wants to pretend that it will be deemed legal until elections are held. Well, the CCJ has implied that elections should be held by September 18 2019 or by such date as the National Assembly decides. The Opposition is not going to provide that extension, and so the life of the government ends on September 18, 2019.
The consequence is that foreign programmes will cease, and sanctions including visa sanctions may be imposed. If the latter happens, Guyanese will find it hard to get visas to those countries which apply such sanctions. Better to get your visa now than take a chance and wait until September 18, 2019.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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