Western missions here will help to set up meetings in their respective capitals for the PPP/C to alert the international community about election rigging fears, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo announced yesterday while insisting that President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of Justice James Patterson as Gecom Chairman, is a departure from the Carter formula which both the PNC and the PPP had complied from the inception.
Jagdeo also criticized Granger for setting criteria which included that a nominee must not be politically aligned when he himself, whilst being a member of the PNC allowed himself to be nominated twice for the position of Gecom Chairman.
Speaking at his weekly press conference yesterday, Jagdeo stated that last week he engaged members of the diplomatic community inclusive of the ABC countries and the EU.
“I have solicited and received their support to set meetings in the capitals and I am in the process of determining when I will be visiting the capitals of those countries”, he informed.
Two weeks ago Jagdeo had said that in addition to a local campaign, the party was prepared to visit Washington, London, Ottawa and Brussels to alert persons of concerns about a government plan to rig the 2020 regional and general elections. This suspicion arose after Patterson’s appointment on October 19.
Jagdeo said too that he met with several international organizations and he plans to follow up with letters.
Asked about the content of his engagements with the diplomats, Jagdeo told reporters they centred around Patterson’s unilateral appointment and mirrored issues he has already mentioned in the public domain.
Patterson was sworn in two and a half hours after Granger met with Jagdeo to inform him of the rejection of the third list and his selection of Patterson.
The unilateral appointment of the 84-year-old retired judge, which both Granger and the Attorney General, Basil Williams SC have sought to justify, has seen widespread condemnation from civil society.
The PPP has already filed a court action challenging the appointment and asking that Granger be ordered to choose one of the 18 names he had rejected.
Jagdeo had said at the press conference two weeks ago that there will be a heightened awareness about the suspected plan and the party is in the process of putting together a group that will look at all the ways that government can rig the elections and what can be done to block any such attempt.
He had insisted that the party is not taking the matter lightly and does not intend to sit around and allow the government to trample on citizen’s democracy.
Jagdeo stressed yesterday that if all the “odd are stacked against us”, the PPP/C commissioners will still participate in Gecom meetings to fight to ensure that the 2020 elections will be free and fair. “We will do so in alliance with all the people of Guyana who share similar values like others that is they want to live in freedom and raise their children in freedom”, he said.
“I will tell you that is not just about the unconstitutional (and) illegal nature of his appointment but about how the president views our laws because he acted contrary to the laws…It was an abandonment of 25 years of agreed interpretation by the two parties of Article 161 (2)”, Jagdeo added.
Jagdeo said that while the PPP/C is open to constitutional change, there is need for constitutional compliance for the time being. “We can change anything in the future. If all the parties agree on a formula for appointing the Chairman of Gecom but that is down the line. Right now we have a formula in the Constitution that was jointly agreed to by all the parties in parliament”, Jagdeo stressed.
He said that “for years the PNC and the PPP have acted in compliance with a common interpretation of that formula and what we have now is a unilateral, capricious almost petulant departure from that formula by a president who says forget the courts and what the courts have ruled, it is my opinion that matter and however I interpret this, however I interpret the formula in the Constitution I will act in accordance with that interpretation. Never mind history. Never mind that his own name was on the list twice”. Jagdeo said that he has since learnt that Granger said at a PNC event in Atlanta, USA, that he has been a member of the PNC for 52 years.
“Just imagine the hypocrisy of our President. God-fearing. He wrote me and said nobody should be a member of a political party, none of the nominees and none were members of the PPP and he, himself, was a member of the PNC when his name was submitted twice by Mr Hoyte and he didn’t object to that. Isn’t that not just hypocrisy?” Jagdeo railed.
Jagdeo yesterday was unapologetic for the PPP/C’s behaviour in Parliament last Monday. “Why would we regret an action that we wanted to pursue to highlight the seriousness of the transgression by the president?” he questioned.
Granger’s state of the nation address to the National Assembly was mostly drowned out by heckling members of the opposition, who staged a protest in the parliamentary chambers as part of its opposition to Patterson’s unilateral appointment.
Questions have been raised about the decision by Speaker Dr. Barton Scotland not to intervene. In response Jagdeo said that it would seem that both the Speaker and those occupying the government benches had no issue with their actions as no one raised an objection.
“But obviously the speaker might have agreed with our position because I did not see the Speaker intervene to tell us that we were breaking any of the Standing Orders”, he said before adding that the Speaker normally intervenes often on routine matters.
The Speaker had banged his gavel during the uproar to no avail.
“On a normal day in Parliament the Speaker will intervene maybe 20 times to tell some member that he or she is in violation of the standing order…”, he said noting that in this most recent case the Speaker did not tell the opposition that they were in breach of any of the Standing Orders.
“So I hope that he is not going to come and lecture us in the future about some breach of any Standing Order…we are in no mood to get lectures from the Speaker”, he said adding that the government MPs did not intervene either and it was if they agreed with the PPP’s actions.
Jagdeo however offered an apology for the incorrect spelling of divide on his placard which elicited widespread flak and went viral online. The word was spelt as “devide”.
“I must apologize. It’s a bad example for our children”, he said before explaining that he borrowed the placard with the incorrect spelling from a colleague who was sitting at the back and failed to look at it to see what it said.” I should have done that (examined it) but the MPs from the back bench told me they did it deliberately…I should not have held it. I borrowed it from the back without looking and I am suffering the consequences, rightfully so for that”, he said.
He said that while the party has been called “vulgar” for its behaviour in Parliament and accused of disrespecting the president, the government has done worse.
“I find things that are a hundred times more vulgar in my books than the PPP holding up a few placards in the Parliament because from December you probably gonna have (thousands of) people who will be on the breadline because their fathers or mothers … work in the sugar industry…that is a bigger vulgarity to me”, he said adding that his party has a good track record of fighting for freedom.
He said that claims that the PPP does not respect the president is nothing more than a “storm in a tea cup” and a distraction from the real issues including Justice Patterson.
Jagdeo said though that while the PPP respects the institution of the presidency, it has no respect for “the person who holds that office now”.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo said that the APNU+AFC government has committed a number of vulgarities, including the disbandment of the Integrity Commission and excessive spending on overseas travel and the purchase of vehicles since taking office.
“Mr. President who is vulgar? Why don’t we see outrage in Guyana when these things are done using taxpayers’ money? What is vulgar is that almost on a daily basis hundreds of millions of dollars of settlements are made”, he said.