Statement by His Excellency Brigadier David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, following consultations with the Chairman and Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission on Friday, March 8, 2019 at Ministry of the Presidency
President David Granger: The Government had a very enlightening and useful engagement with the Guyana Elections Commission this morning. The Commission was invited by the Government to examine the ways and means of having credible elections in as shortest time as possible, and we sought guidance from the Elections Commission as to what they would need. It appeared to the Government side that there are some differences. We did not feel that the differences are irreconcilable, but there needs to be a fresh search for agreement between the competing opinions in the Commission. Much attention was focused on the List. Naturally, the List is central to elections. We feel that elections are a normal part of democracy, but we don’t want any citizen to feel disenfranchised and it is evident from the evidence provided in the meeting this morning that the List is bloated… given the size of our population and much attention is focused on sanitising that List.
As far as we are concerned on the Government side, we did not receive the sort of guidance that we need to enable me as President to make a proclamation to actually announce a date, but we have kept the door opened and we have asked the Guyana Elections Commission to go back to the drawing board to examine how quickly and how easily they could arrive at an consensual position; merge the various approaches; ensure that the preparations for elections, which have already started, continue and that we could have an agreement as quickly as possible. So as far as the Government side is concerned, this has been productive, it has been edifying and we feel we have the basis for moving quickly towards having elections in Guyana.
The unfortunate thing of course, is that we do not have a date and I am confident that if the Guyana Elections Commission resolved or reconciled the different points of view, which exist in the Commission now, Guyanese could look forward to having elections at an early date as possible. I would like to ask Minister of State to…
Minister of State: Yes, sir. I would wish to add that the other issue you made very clear in the meeting was that there are four matters which are to be considered in addition to the work programme for GECOM, and that is that there is a need for Government to continue to function in its legitimate manner; that the court processes are going on at the same time while we are discussing this matter with GECOM, and that the outcomes of these matters are also going to impact on whatever it is that we do; that GECOM as an independent body, has to ensure that in its decision making processes, that it takes into consideration the approaches and views expressed by these Commissioners, but at the end of the day it is the decision of the Commission upon which the Executive branch will have to rely on and, therefore, it is decision of the Commission that would inform His Excellency in whatever decisions or pronouncements he would make.
While the sense we got in the meeting that there were different approaches, that there were personal views also expressed, we understand that that is normal; that will happen, but at the end of that we have to act on a decision of GECOM. Sometimes these decisions are unanimous and sometimes they are a majority decision, but the fact of the matter is that we must have a decision.
The other thing is that the President gave a commitment to GECOM that any issues which require the intervention of a Minister or for the Executive to take any action which has to be taken, that the President has undertaken to have that done expeditiously so that the work of the Commission can proceed with due haste.
President David Granger: Let me make one thing clear. The Government is in no way interfering or intruding in the constitutional role and duty of the Commission. It is for the Commission to advise me that it is ready and I will then proclaim a date.
Naturally, I would like to proclaim a date that is sanctioned by the National Assembly and the Constitution, but we have not intruded in the work of the Commission and we are prepared to support the Commission in what it has been doing. It is not for me to overrule the Commission. The Commission is independent. It is not for anybody to give the Commission instructions as to when elections are to be held. Once the Commission says it is ready, I will announce a date and I hope that date is as early as possible. So the question of the ball being in the President’s court is not a credible position to take. I have to be advised by the Commission and we had two hours of, I would say, gruelling discussions and I am very confident that when the Commission goes back to High Street and goes back to the drawing board, they will be able to give the Guyanese people or give the President, the type of guidance that I need to make that decision. I am satisfied that the will exists on both sides, the Government side and the Commission’s side and we now have to make that decision as to when elections will be held in Guyana.