Despite three hours of discussions at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Headquarters in Kingston yesterday, the Commissioners failed to reach a decision on the way forward as regards the holding of General and Regional Elections.
The discussions were scheduled for GECOM officials, led by Chairman of the Commission, retired Justice Claudette Singh, to deliberate on the written ruling of Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George.
The Commission was expected to examine possible election scenarios put forward by Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, to advise the President on the way forward. However, Government-appointed Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, told the media that the lengthy talks bore no fruit. Commissioners Alexander, Desmond Trotman and Charles Corbin were the first to leave GECOM’s office.
The three commissioners appeared glum as they exited the building and held a discourse in the compound before speaking with members of the press.
Commenting on the process, Alexander noted that the discussions on the way forward have commenced.
“I think we were frank [each party] arguing our own positions, but at this point, it is an incomplete discourse…” Alexander said, as he disclosed that the deliberations will continue tomorrow.
He noted that the question of the continuance of House-to-House registration dominated the talks.
“There is only one aspect of the Chief Justice’s ruling that we were able to discuss: that is the whole question of the role of House- to- House registration in the process of general elections.”
Asked whether the Commission will make a determination by tomorrow, Alexander said, “We prefer in the interest of taking the process forward, preferably not to make public disclosures”.
Pressed further on the presentations made, Alexander disclosed that the Chief Elections Officer presented various elections scenarios, but there is need for clarifications.
Alexander concluded, “I will say to you that we have in fact referred the CEO for further clarifications on scenarios.”
Meanwhile, Opposition -appointed elections Commissioners Bibi Shadick and Sase Gunraj declined to divulge information on the meeting.
“All we can say is that we will meet again on Friday,” Shadick stated as she exited the compound.
Last week, in her ruling, Chief Justice George declared that the current house-to-house registration exercise embarked upon by the Commission is legal.
Justice George held that not only is GECOM a constitutional creature, it is also an independent body, and the court cannot interfere with the manner in which it executes its function, unless it is found to be unconstitutional.
She had delivered judgment in a challenge mounted by Attorney-at-law Christopher Ram, who had petitioned the High Court for a Conservatory Order prohibiting GECOM from conducting or continuing to conduct the current house-to-house registration process, which he deemed unconstitutional in light of previous court decisions which deemed the December 21 No-Confidence Motion valid.
Ram also sought another Conservatory Order compelling GECOM immediately to take all steps and actions necessary and requisite to hold General and Regional Elections on or before the September 18.
Ram sought the order on the basis that the current registration exercise and failure to hold elections by September 18 would be in violation of Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution and also the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the No-Confidence Motion appeals.
However, in her ruling, Chief Justice George “I don’t see how the house-to-house registration exercise violates Article 106 (6) and (7). The CEO (Chief Elections Officer) of GECOM has no role to play in relation to Article 106 (6) and in regards to Article 106 (7). GECOM could conduct the house-to-house registration or any other verification in the circumstance following the No-Confidence Motion. There is nothing in the Elections Law (Amendment) Act (ELA) or the National Registration Act (NRA), which suggests that the registration exercise was unconstitutional.”
According to Justice George, since GECOM is an independent body, it can conduct house-to-house registration, as a means provided to it for verification of the list of voters to compile the Official List of Electors.
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