Georgetown, Guyana - (March 16, 2019) The Government of Guyana rejects the baseless allegations by Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo that President David Granger has treated with the issue of the no-confidence motion in bad faith.
That is farthest from the truth. In fact, President Granger has demonstrated impeccable leadership, despite consistent attacks from the Opposition, beyond a reasonable doubt given the current circumstances.
It is Mr. Jagdeo and his team of Opposition-nominated Commissioners who have repeatedly frustrated the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) attempt to come to a consensus on a ‘work plan’ and getting ready to host General and Regional Elections (GRE). It is a fact that the repeated absenteeism by Opposition-nominated Commissioners have been disruptive, dilatory and counterproductive to the agreement of a ‘work plan’ that could assure the nation of the Commission’s ability to hold credible elections within the shortest time possible.
Since the passage of the no-confidence vote on December 21, 2018, the President consulted with Mr. Jagdeo twice (January 6, 2019 and March 6, 2019) and met with the Chairman and Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on separate occasions.
In fact, the Head of State invited the Leader of the Opposition to meet jointly with the Chairman and Commissioners of GECOM, but Mr. Jagdeo refused. The President on every occasion following his consultations with the requisite Constitutional office holders and agencies, has reported to the nation.
In each of his statements, he maintained that constitutionally, he cannot name a date for GRE without GECOM advising him that it is ready to deliver free, fair and credible elections.
The President reiterated in his most recent address to the nation that Guyana’s Constitution is sacrosanct and supreme; the independence of the Judiciary and the Elections Commission is respected and the National Assembly is functional.
“I am confident that, if these institutions are allowed to function without interference, the nation could expect a good outcome to the present situation. I wish to assure everyone that the Government will continue to respect the Constitution, abide by the law and ensure the orderly functioning of the agencies of public administration and the efficient conduct of credible elections. Guyanese, the no-confidence vote activated four concurrent processes, all of which have a bearing on the present political situation,” he said yesterday in his address to the nation.
The Government, like the Opposition, has a legal right to appeal the decision of the Legislature to interpret issues relative to the no-confidence motion.
The Speaker of the National Assembly was asked to reverse his decision that the no-confidence motion was validly passed. He declined to do so, but advised that a full, final and complete settlement of the issues raised by the Government can be resolved in the courts, which can provide the National Assembly and the Speaker with guidance for the future.
The Government’s move to the courts therefore, can only be viewed as a means of bringing clarity and certainty to the issues, which arose as a consequence of the no-confidence vote. This is a Constitutional right not a favour.
It is important to note that contrary to the claims by the People’s Progressive Party (PPPP) and their supporters that the Government is acting illegally, Article 106 (7) of the Constitution of Guyana states clearly that:
“Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
It may be apposite to note that the attorney for the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Anil Nandlall submitted to the Court of Appeal that there must be a Government. Referring to Article 106 (6) and Article 106 (7), Nandlall submitted that while the first article provides for the resignation of Cabinet including the President, the Government remains intact until a new president is sworn in. As such, he put to the Appellate Court that the President remains the President, and the Ministers remain Ministers of Government.
“The framers of our Constitution were so careful that they ensured that the President…remains in Office so there wouldn’t be a vacuum in the constitutional order of the executive, and only when the other president takes the oath of office, that the President and the government shall resign, so that there is a fluid transition from one executive government to another,” Mr. Nandlall said.
There are no legal barriers to Government’s functioning and as such, the Government will continue to execute its functions to the citizenry.
As mentioned before, GRE like all other elections must be the subject of a credible, free and fair process. President Granger is not opposed to the holding of Elections in the shortest possible time, this year. In fact, he has repeated this from the start of his consultations with Mr. Jagdeo.
He has made it clear however, that he cannot name a date for elections without receiving the advice and assurances that GECOM is in a position to conduct credible elections.
The President has reminded that free and fair elections are essential to representative democracy.
“The credibility of elections, in turn, is dependent in part on the integrity of the Official List of Electors. A contaminated list can vitiate the credibility of elections,” he said yesterday.
Government, based on its consultations with GECOM, believes that given the size of the country’s population, the existing list of electors is bloated and needs to be sanitized.
In fact, President Granger has made it clear that he will not be party to citizens feeling disenfranchised.
“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,” the President stated on March 8, 2019 following his meeting with GECOM.
The Government does not have the power to determine how quickly and efficiently this is done. This is the role of GECOM as articulated in Article 62 of the Constitution of Guyana which states that “Elections shall be independently supervised by the Election Commission in accordance with the provisions of Article 162.”
Article 162 (1) (a) mandates that the Commission:
…shall exercise general direction and supervision over the registration of electors and the administrative conduct of all elections of members of the National Assembly…
The Government maintains that GECOM must be allowed to function independently. Mr. Jagdeo is reminded, that while serving as president in 2006, and in response to the public concern that elections would not be held within the constitutional timeframe, he said, “The law says that GECOM shall define the form of verification of the List or may decide on verification and will decide on what form it will take. Not the PPP, not the PNC, not any party, GECOM. That’s a constitutional body, independent just like the courts.”
The same position obtains. The Constitution of Guyana has not been altered since 2006 and so, the same provisions which guided Mr. Jagdeo while he served as President are guiding President Granger now.
The Government of Guyana maintains that GECOM must be allowed to function independently. No person is allowed to intervene in the Commission’s work; not even the President.
The Commission’s Chairman wrote President Granger on February 21, 2019 stating that the Commission did not have the capability to deliver credible GRE within the three-month timeframe commencing December 21, 2018.
The Chairman also stated that the Commission is in need of finances which have to be approved by the National Assembly, in order to conduct GRE. The Elections Commission, obviously, does not share the PPP’s interpretation that funds allocated for house-to-house registration can be diverted for use to conduct elections.
President Granger in response committed to “doing everything possible” to allow for the Commission to receive the financial resources and to be able to conduct credible elections.
The President also called on GECOM to commence preparations for the conduct of the said elections. On March 8, 2019, President Granger met the full membership of the Elections Commission to determine its needs and readiness to conduct the elections in the shortest possible time.
At that meeting, the Head of State did not receive guidance which would have allowed him to make a proclamation and naturally, he cannot so do unless GECOM advises him accordingly.
The PPP’s allegation that President Granger “rejected a work plan from the Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners, which contemplated the holding of General and Regional Elections on April 29, 2019, is dishonest.
During the meeting with GECOM, Opposition-nominated Commissioner Ms. Bibi Shadick presented a document purporting to be a ‘work plan’. There was no opportunity for anyone present to peruse the document prior and more importantly, it was not an official document from GECOM. The President requested that the document be submitted to the Commission. The PPP has since repeatedly said that the President has rejected the documents, which is a malicious misrepresentation of the facts.
The Opposition Leader has taken a high-handed and confrontational approach in the current situation. He has repeatedly discredited attempts by President Granger to consult with him stating in the media that “it is a waste of time” or a “charade” even before accepting invitations issued to him. He has sought to paint a harrowing picture to the nation without attending the meetings in good faith.
He has consistently used his weekly press conferences to attack the credibility of President Granger by calling the President and his administration illegal despite knowing that the President and Government remain legally in office until a new President is sworn in.
This position is not novice; it is enshrined in our Constitution at Article 106 (7) which specifically states that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The Opposition Leader has maliciously repeated that after March 21, 2019, citizens should “chase” the President, Prime Minister and Government ministers out of their communities. The Government strongly condemns such inciting and inflammatory utterances. There is no provision in the Constitution of Guyana, which requires the President to resign or demit office following the passage of a no confidence motion.
The Government of Guyana maintains that the only way to overcome these political challenges is through collaboration. President Granger in his address to the nation yesterday made it clear that he is prepared to do his part to ensure “credible elections within “…the shortest time possible” this year. The decisions which have to be made and the actions which need to be taken, however, are not mine alone.”
He reminded that he relies on GECOM’s readiness, the provision of funds and the expansion of time to conduct credible elections by the National Assembly.
“I rely on the outcome of legal challenges by the Court of Appeal. I rely, also, on public confidence in the institutions responsible for executing these processes. They demand
political cooperation, not confrontation,” he stated maintaining that the four processes (legislature, judicial, electoral and executive) which are running concurrently must be independent.