From his recent correspondence with Justice (Rtd) James Patterson, Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), President Granger has made it seem as if he always recognised the constitutional stipulation for general elections to be held within three months of the motion of no confidence which was passed against his government on December 21, 2018.
Except that that would be news to the majority of the citizens of this country as he and his government defied the three-month stipulation for general elections and insisted that they would not recognise the outcome of the motion of no confidence until they had exhausted all legal options going all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
How then does one reconcile that stance with the President’s pair of correspondence to the Chairman on February 25 wherein he stated “I have noted your statement to the effect that the Commission does not have the capability to deliver credible General and Regional Elections (GRE) within the three-month time-frame commencing 2018.12.21 and that additional funds, appropriated by the National Assembly, need to be provided”. His identification of the three-month timeframe signals full recognition of its import following the passage of the motion.
He then goes on to urge GECOM “to commence preparations for the conduct of GRE”. That request clearly signals early elections and a further recognition of the consequences of the motion of no confidence. So is it the case that the President recognised the three-month timeframe for general elections and if this was so why didn’t he communicate this to the public at large and his constituency? Or was there an ulterior motive to this belated revelation of the recognition? Is it solely for the purpose of laying the basis for securing an extension in parliament of the timeframe for the holding of general elections as the legitimacy of his government will be in question after March 19?
The public expects sincerity and principled behaviour from its elected leaders. What President Granger has demonstrated in his letter of February 25th to the GECOM Chairman falls far short of this. President Granger must explain his position to the public. Did he accept the validity of the three-month period for holding general elections and what steps did he take to honour it? Except for a fleeting acceptance of the effect of the motion of no confidence on December 21, 2018, he and his government ignored the three-month deadline when it really should have set a date for general elections and left it to GECOM to fulfil its constitutional obligations. President Granger waited until he received a letter from the GECOM Chairman on February 21 – two months after the motion of no-confidence – before urging that preparations be made for General and Regional Elections.
President Granger is not alone in this disrespect of constitutional provisions. As we have stated before, it was the obligation of GECOM to take immediate notice of the passage of the motion of no confidence on December 21, 2018 and to hold itself in readiness for an impending date for general elections. It did absolutely nothing. Between the Chairman’s reported illness and the disinclination among the government-appointed members to accept the outcome of the motion of no-confidence, GECOM languidly proceeded to address its responsibilities. Instead of recognising the definitive deadline for general elections set by the constitution, GECOM became sidetracked by the bewildering insistence on house-to-house registration and an incredulous time frame of 148 days from the Chief Election Officer for readiness when local government election had been held just months before. It grows clearer by the day that a majority on GECOM remains in cahoots with the government to defy the constitution of Guyana.
Justice Patterson’s letter of February 21, 2019 to President Granger asserts that GECOM had taken the three-month deadline seriously. There is however no evidence of this in its conduct since December 21, 2018.
Justice Patterson’s letter said “I take this opportunity therefore to make you aware that the Commission also decided that it would be prudent to proceed with the implementation of our unanimously approved work programme for 2019. This decision was taken in light of the fact that we have already lost approximately three (3) months while we vigorously and singularly explored to finality the options for compliance with the current constitutional imperative as our only focus”.
Vigorously and singularly explored to finality the options for compliance? Chairman Patterson and his Commission should explain to the public exactly what they did since December 21, 2018 to meet the constitutional requirement for general elections. It would make very interesting reading.
In the second of his letters to GECOM on February 25th – it remains an unexplained mystery why two separate missives had to be sent on the same say – President Granger expressed his wish “to initiate consultations on the readiness of GECOM for the conduct of General and Regional Elections in 2019”. There is no need for any such consultation. There are established channels of communication between GECOM and the executive and these should be pursued. Considering that the President, his government and their compatriots on GECOM are doing their utmost to delay general elections, such a consultation would be oppressive and constitute further interference in this body which should not be taking directives from the executive.
As it relates to President Granger’s invitation to the Opposition Leader for a meeting on Wednesday on electoral matters, we would urge that the Opposition Leader accept the invitation and utilise the opportunity to press for adherence to the constitution and to test the President’s willingness to name a reasonable date for general elections.