Jagdeo says ball in president’s court for meeting on looming ‘crisis’

Bharrat Jagdeo

Despite continuing to voice concerns that the country is heading towards a “constitutional crisis” as elections are not expected to be held by the constitutional deadline set by last December’s passage of a no-confidence motion against government, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday ruled out the possibility of him requesting another meeting with President David Granger.

“Since when I have to be the only responsible one as the Leader of the Opposition? So far, we have been the most responsible opposition,” Jagdeo told a press conference yesterday, while noting that he is exploring legal options and expects both international condemnation and the imposition of personal sanctions on members of the government if the polls are not held by next month’s deadline.

By majority votes, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday decided that it would advise President Granger that the 90-day constitutional deadline for general elections cannot be met and that it will continue with its approved work plan for the year, including a national house-to-house registration process. Jagdeo’s party, the PPP/C, has been calling on GECOM to prepare for elections as a consequence of the December 21st vote on the confidence motion.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Basil Williams SC urged the president and Jagdeo to work together. Told that the president has not invited Jagdeo to a meeting, he responded, “He could invite the president.”

At his weekly press conference yesterday, Jagdeo was adamant that given the importance of this issue, the president has to extend an invitation to meet.

“The president has to convene meetings himself with other people. So this president is now acting as though nothing is happening, that the country is going fine, his ministers are doing well, they’re spending all our money…He has given no indication whatsoever that he understands the seriousness of the situation or that he is prepared to address it,” he said, while insisting that Granger is “driving us into a constitutional crisis.”

‘No great desire’

Jagdeo told reporters that it is outside of his power to contact the president and request a meeting. “I can’t convene no meeting with the president. I have made it clear [that] I am prepared to meet but…I’m not meeting to gaff again,” he said.

When pressed, he said that although he had previously requested meetings, they did not concern such a “fundamental issue” as is the one before them. “I am not going to go because ‘oh we’re meeting with the president.’ I have no great desire to meet,” he said.

Told that he ought to be the one making the effort to meet given his concern that the country is heading towards a constitutional crisis, he responded, “He (Granger) has a responsibility as the President of Guyana. We [PPP] are opposition.”  He reminded that on the night the no-confidence motion was passed, it was he who approached Minister of State Joseph Harmon and asked for a meeting to be arranged with the president to “talk this through and to talk about the future.”

Jagdeo stressed that Granger has a duty to act in accordance with the constitution but is not doing so.

“…I’ll stand when he goes to Pearl and flag him down and say, ‘Oh Mr. President, we’re heading to a constitutional crisis. Can we meet tomorrow?’ Do I have to tell him this? He doesn’t know this? …They are hell-bent on violating the constitution because they don’t care about the consequences,” he stressed.

During the press conference, Jagdeo maintained that no court can grant a stay to alter the three-month deadline for the holding of elections, before pointing out that the constitution sets out how such an alteration can be made. This, he said, can only be done by a two-thirds majority of the elected members of the National Assembly.

“At this time, we are not going to vote to extend that three months deadline,” he insisted, before calling on the Chancellor to dispose of the appeals to the challenges to the validity of the motion with urgency as the Chief Justice had done.

‘Sanctions’

Jagdeo asserted that after the March deadline passes, the government goes into “unconstitutional territory.”

He noted that he is currently exploring the idea of taking legal action against the APNU+AFC administration and GECOM if  there are no elections by next month’s deadline. “I have not explored it in great detail as yet to see, one, about its likelihood to succeed, whether you can go under dereliction of duty or that there is some more fundamental violations there at GECOM,” he, however, explained, before adding that so far he has gotten two sets of legal options and that he would like to like to solicit a few more before his party makes a definitive decision.

In addition to dispatching a team abroad to advance the party’s position, Jagdeo will hold a meeting here next week with members of the international community.

Jagdeo also said the PPP will be seeking sanction against the executive, GECOM and some of its commissioners. Later, he explained that these “personal” sanctions can take the form of the freezing of bank accounts and prohibition of travel.

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