The GECOM enigma continues to baffle, bewilder, mystify, confound and confuse everyone, as Guyanese are taken for a seemingly futile journey from the High Court and Appeal Court of Guyana to the Caribbean Court of Justice – the highest Appellate Court of the Region.
Until now, since June 18th this year, the matters which were brought before the CCJ and decisively concluded are yet to be given legal effect and enforcement.
We have seen that even though the CCJ has ruled that the NCM was validly passed since December 21st, 2018 and that legal effect and enforcement must be given to Article 106(6) and (7) which inter alia states that: Cabinet must resign, the Coalition Government is in Caretaker mode and General and Regional Elections must be held within three months or 90 days, we are not closer to any of these.
The Government has refused to dissolve Cabinet, refused to act like a Caretaker Government, and has been using spurious legal meanderings to avoid the CCJ’s rulings initiated by the new ‘Mathematical Formula’.
The recent ruling on August 14th by the High Court has skillfully avoided the petition brought by Chartered Accountant and Attorney at Law Christopher Ram who had sought to stop the House to House registration process, arguing that it is not in keeping with the recent rulings of the CCJ and the Constitution of Guyana.
He had also sought an order for GECOM to take all steps and actions necessary to hold Elections by 18th September 2019 in compliance with Articles 106(6) and (7).
The Chief Justice ruled that the House to House Registration process to compile an Official List of Electors (OLE) is legal, but no one can be removed from the National Register of Registrants once they are not deceased or are not a citizen, which should be applauded.
However, even though the CCJ did not and cannot set a date for Elections, it did specify a timeline in accordance with the relevant Article. Furthermore, on June 18th when the CCJ confirmed the validity of the NCM, the election clock began ticking from that date, since it is legally acceptable that a judgment takes legal effect from the date it was made. Therefore it would be logical to conclude that the short pause of the NCM was lifted on June 18th.
In my opinion, the recent ruling should have been in relation to that new time period, it is not about setting a date for Elections but to recognise that the new timeline which had restarted from June 18th and will end on September 18th and that GECOM must consider that timeframe and set a date for Elections.
This means that GECOM will set the date, not the Court; the latter must stipulate that GECOM act with that 3-month timeline. How else can legal effect be given to Article 106(7) which states that elections must be held within 3 months unless extended by a two-third majority of the National Assembly?
So, essentially, what the Court is saying is that although we recognised the validity of this Article we cannot enforce it, but leave GECOM to execute it. So what is the purpose of the Court?
When we look at this from a GECOM perspective, we find that the current House to House Registration will take approximately 290 days to conclude, according to GECOM’s work program. This means that it will end around April/May 2020. This was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who had indicated that it is a program shared by Chief Elections Officer, Mr Keith Lowenfield.
To accept that it will conclude on October 20th 2019 is living in fool’s paradise, this is virtually impossible, and I am sure the new Chairperson for GECOM will find this out presently.
President Granger had in a letter dated 13th March this year asked for the GECOM’s work program from the then Chairman Patterson to set the date for ‘credible elections within the shortest possible time’ therefore I am sure that he is fully cognizant and acquiesced to this unconstitutional bid to extend Elections way beyond the stipulated 90 days by an additional 200 days!
It has been regurgitated and reiterated ad nauseam that GECOM is an independent body and is the creature of the Constitution. My final questions are: Is GECOM above the Constitution? Should GECOM be allowed to violate the Constitution which has created it? Should GECOM not now act decisively to give legal effect to Article 106(7)? Should it not be that any act or law which violates the Constitution be declared null and void, and without legal effect?
I am sure that the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice Claudette Singh, will not allow the violation and utter disregard which has been meted out thus far to our Constitution to continue!
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