Georgetown, Guyana – (July 25, 2019) President David Granger, today, met members of the Diplomatic Corps, the Private Sector and Civil Society where he iterated that the Government remains committed to upholding the Constitution, respecting the institutions of the State including the National Assembly and the Courts; ensuring the rule of law; safeguarding human and civil rights; and preserving Guyana’s democracy especially through the conduct of free, fair and credible Local and General and Regional Elections.
Addressing the Diplomatic Corps first in the Baridi Benab, this morning, the President said since the passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly on 21st December 2018, the Government has sought to respect the decisions of the Court.
“We have upheld the Constitution. We challenged the validity of the no-confidence Motion. We defended the challenge to the constitutionality of the appointment of the Chairman of the Elections Commission. The legal processes which we initiated were neither frivolous nor calculated to delay the consequences of the no-confidence vote. They sought to explain more clearly and to interpret certain provisions of the Constitution. The legal challenges were taken to the Supreme Court, then to the Court of Appeal and, finally, to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), our final court,” he said.
The Head of State noted that the Government, through the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, filed a Fixed Date Application on 7th January 2019, challenging the passage of the no-confidence motion on the basis that the Opposition did not secure a majority as required by the Constitution. The Attorney General, by way of the application, asked the Court to determine whether the Speaker’s declaration that the no-confidence motion was carried by a majority in the National Assembly was unlawful, null and void on the basis that it contradicted the Constitution (at Article 106 (6). The Chief Justice (Ag) on 31st January 2019 ruled that the no-confidence motion was lawful.
The Chief Justice ruled, also, that on the issue of dual citizenship, the vote of the former Government Member of Parliament who had voted in favour of the Opposition motion was valid though, as a person holding dual citizenship, he was occupying a seat in the National Assembly in contravention of the Constitution of Guyana.
“The Government filed an appeal on 5th February 2019 challenging the Chief Justice’s ruling. The Court of Appeal, on 22nd March 2019, by a majority ruled that the no-confidence motion against the Government was invalid. The Court of Appeal ruled, additionally, that a person holding dual citizenship was not entitled to be a member of the National Assembly. The Government, in accordance with the Court’s ruling, replaced four of its ministers of the Cabinet who held dual citizenship on 25th April 2019 in pursuant of the Court’s ruling,” he said.
Following Government’s appeal at the CCJ, the Court on 18th June 2019, declared that the no-confidence motion in the Government was valid and, on 12th July 2019, issued its Consequential Orders.
Further, the President of the CCJ ruled that the process used to appoint the Chairman of the Elections Commission (GECOM) was flawed, void and in breach of the Constitution.
“I personally, in accordance with the Court’s ruling, accepted the resignation of the Chairman. The President embarked on a process to engage the Leader of the Opposition to select a new Chairman. The CCJ, in its ruling of 18th June 2019, proposed, however, that: “… before a list is submitted, the Leader of the Opposition and the President must communicate with each other in good faith on, and perhaps even meet to discuss, eligible candidates for the position of Chairman. The aim of these discussions must be to agree the names of six persons who fit the stated eligibility requirements and who are not unacceptable to the President…” he said.
The Head of State asserted that he has acted in good faith and has, since the ruling, met twice with the Opposition Leader, while the teams identified by the Government and Opposition to continue the process of identifying nominees for the position of Chairman of the Elections Commission have met four times between July 4 and July 17, 2019. Noting that the CCJ emphasized that the “hammering out” approach “gives the President a role in the identification of the six names…” the President said that he expected the that the Government’s recommendations would have been accorded serious consideration during the consensual process.
“I have advised the Leader of the Opposition that any list emerging out of a process which does not accord serious consideration to the Government’s recommendations, in the spirit of the CCJ ruling, would be spurious and that I would have great difficulty in accepting such a list. We are committed to complying with the Orders of the Courts. We are resolved to ensure the expeditious appointment of a Chairman of the Elections Commission. We seek fair, free and credible elections as early as possible. The Elections Commission, at present however, is without a quorum owing to the absence of a Chairman. My Government will continue to act in good faith to ensure that a Chairperson, “not unacceptable” to the President, is appointed so as to ensure that democratic elections as early as possible,” President Granger said.
The Head of State underscored that free, fair and credible elections are essential to representative democracy but this goal can be assured only if certain minimum conditions are met. These include an independent and functional Elections Commission; an acceptable and credible Official List of Electors and an efficient and competent secretariat to manage these elections. He noted that the independence of the Elections Commission is safeguarded by the Constitution. It is insulated from political influence, instruction and interference and the proclamation of an unrealistic date by the Executive is ruled out by the Constitution which gives certain powers to the Elections Commission.
“The adoption of a list by any agency outside of the Elections Commission is prohibited by our Constitution and would damage the elections if held an attempt was held under such a spurious date or with such a spurious list. The credibility of elections is dependent, in part, on the integrity of the Official List of Electors. A corrupted List can undermine the electoral process, encourage mischief and malpractice and result in the elections being vitiated. The existing Official List of Electors falls short of acceptable standards. It cannot guarantee free, fair and credible elections. A new List needs to be constituted and it has been recommended that this should be done through a process of ‘house-to-house’ registration. This is entirely a matter for the Elections Commission, it is not a matter for any political party or the Executive,” the President said.
The Government, he reiterated, is keen to have elections in the shortest possible time but it has to be satisfied that the bases for the holding of credible elections exist. In the interim, the Head of State said that his administration will continue to uphold the Constitution, to comply with the Orders of the Court and act in good faith in the consensual process to appoint a Chairman of the Elections Commission.
“The Government of Guyana accepts that it is an ‘interim’ government and must continue to provide public services. The Constitution (at Article 106 (7)) states that, notwithstanding its defeat in the National Assembly, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election. The Government has made it clear that during this ‘interim’ period, it will restrain the exercise of its legal authority and prepare for the holding of General and Regional Elections by the Elections Commission.
“The Government will continue its routine management of the country; it will address urgent issues that are in the public interest but will not initiate projects which are controversial or which are irreversible. It will be prepared, also, to continue to consult with the Opposition on matters which require the agreement of both sides,” he said.