Georgetown, Guyana – (March 20, 2019) The Government of Guyana rejects the outrageous assertions by the Opposition Leader that President David Granger has colluded with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to delay the hosting of General and Regional Elections (GRE) before April 30, 2019.
The Government wishes to remind Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo that GECOM is an independent, autonomous agency that is responsible for the administration of elections in Guyana. The Constitution of Guyana at Article 62, provides that “Elections shall be independently supervised by the Election [s] Commission in accordance with the provisions of Article 162.”
Mr. Jagdeo, at his press conference earlier today, accused the Head of State of “abdicating” responsibility to proclaim a date for GRE. He said, “you got your minions at GECOM to avoid even starting the preparations for elections; you’re getting them to delay the elections; you’re claiming that you can’t name an elections date until they are ready, in violation of your Constitutional authority, and the mandate as a President; you’re devolving that to some other body and then you’re coming to claim now necessity.”
The Government strongly condemns such statements as malicious and dangerous with the intent to impugn the integrity of the President. As the holder of a Constitutional office, Mr. Jagdeo ought to be responsible when making public statements, particularly on matters of national importance.
Article 161 A (1) says the Elections Commission shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of the Secretariat of the Commission, which shall comprise the officers and employees of the Commission, and for the appointment of all the staff to the offices thereof inclusive of all temporary staff, recruited for the purposes of boundary demarcation, registration or persons and elections and shall have the power to remove and exercise disciplinary control over such staff.
Article 161 (B) makes the role of the political parties and their nominees in the conduct of elections by the Elections Commission clear. It says that “the role of political parties and their nominees in the conduct of elections by the Elections Commission shall be limited to their participation in determining policy, monitoring the electoral process and the conduct of the election, but does not include active management of the electoral process.
“Moreover, Article 162 (1) of the Constitution speaks to the Commission having functions connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections as are conferred upon it by or under the Constitution, or subject to any Act of Parliament, and to the provisions of the Constitution, 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 and shall issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the matters aforesaid.”
Additionally, President David Granger has repeatedly emphasized that the Government of Guyana will not interfere or intrude in the work of the GECOM. Mr. Jagdeo also falsely accused the President of influencing GECOM by using the Government nominated Commissioners and the GECOM Chairman to infringe on the independence of the entity.
It should be noted that following the passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018, President Granger said Government will abide by constitutional requirements following the motion.
The Government moved to the High Court and has now engaged the Court of Appeal to appeal the ruling of Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George.
On January 9, the President met the Opposition Leader and his team at the Ministry of the Presidency following which a joint communique was issued. As per that communique, issued on January 10, 2019, the parties discussed the passage of the no-confidence motion, and the time-frames prescribed by the two provisions of the Constitution Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7).
President Granger had emphasized that the Government is legal and that it must govern without any limitations on its authority. He stated that there is no provision in the Constitution which imposes limitation on the Government to perform its lawful functions.
He also indicated that the Government and the Opposition by agreement in the National Assembly, can enlarge the time beyond the 90 days contemplated by Article 106 (7) of the Constitution.
President Granger reminded that it is lawful for the Government to engage the Court, to bring clarity to the provisions of Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution. Pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings, Parliament remains functional.
On February 25, the President wrote the GECOM Chairman indicating he is prepared to enter consultations with him and the Commission to ensure credible elections are held in the shortest possible time.
The President then met with the Opposition Leader on March 6, 2019 at the Ministry of the Presidency where a commitment was made to work towards the resolution of the issues raised by Mr. Jagdeo. Mr. Jagdeo had called on President Granger to name a date for the GRE. The President in response noted that four processes are taking place concurrently; the National Assembly; the Judicial process; the Executive process and GECOM.
He reminded that the President, the Executive or any other person cannot interfere in the Commission’s work and that there is no constitutional crisis. Also, President Granger had invited Mr. Jagdeo to be part of the meeting with the GECOM, but he declined.
On March 7, 2019, Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon invited GECOM’s Chairman, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson and Commissioners, along with Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Mr. Keith Lowenfield and Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) Ms. Roxanne Myers at the Ministry of the Presidency.
The following day, the President met with the GECOM officials and following that meeting, the Head of State said, “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 will 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 President has maintained that the Commission is independent and it is not for him to give instructions to the Commission 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,” he added.
On March 13, 2019, President Granger yet again wrote GECOM demanding the presentation of the ‘work plan’ to him while re-committing the Government to doing everything possible to support the conduct of credible elections ‘…in the shortest time possible.’
Two days letter, the Head of State addressed the nation indicating that he is awaiting word from the Commission as to its ‘work plan’ and financial needs. In his address, the President reiterated the four processes working concurrently: legislative, judiciary, executive, and GECOM; the need for free, fair and credible elections, the need to ensure there is public trust in the Elections Commission and confidence in its capability to deliver credible and timely elections.
How then can Mr. Jagdeo accuse the President of putting the country at risk when he has engaged the Opposition and GECOM even as he awaits the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
“I shall be able to proclaim a date as early as possible for the conduct of General and Regional Elections…The Government is committed to support the rule of law and respect for civil rights. The Govt will remain committed,” the Head of State said.
Justice Patterson wrote President Granger on Tuesday indicating that the Commission would be in a position to conduct GRE no earlier than late November.
It is mind-boggling how Mr. Jagdeo concluded that there was collusion between the President and GECOM to host elections at the end of November 2019, when based on the outlined sequence of events, President Granger did all that was necessary to engage stakeholders.
It is absolutely absurd that Mr. Jagdeo continues to make spurious remarks aimed at confusing the nation. The Government of Guyana calls on Mr. Jagdeo to act responsibly and to be truthful when he seeks to inform the populace.