Georgetown, Guyana – (July 28, 2019): The Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) notes with much concern the statements made by Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, S.C. in his blog titled “The President is transporting Guyana into a dystopian reality” published in the 28th July 2019 edition of the Stabroek News.
Mr. Ramkarran, who is also a co-founder of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) a new political party has seemingly joined the anti-government critics who have sought to distort President David Granger’s actions relative to the appointment of a Chair of the Elections Commission and the holding of General and Regional Elections (GRE).
The Ministry on 27th July addressed some of the said matters raised in that day’s malicious Stabroek News editorial titled – “Temporising”.
President Granger on 19th July 2019 in an interview done on ‘The Public Interest’, was asked whether he believes the rejection of his nominees by the Leader of the Opposition would hamper the way forward relative to the “hammering out” of the list of nominees to be formally submitted to him by the Leader of the Opposition.
He replied: “Well, it is a recipe for gridlock. The important thing which the CCJ aimed at is to ensure consensualism. That is to say, there must be a spirit of compromise, there must acceptance of the be a role of the president in hammering out the list and similarly both sides are to aim at having a list of candidates which are not unacceptable to the President. Unless we accept that principles we are going to end up in gridlock and that is what we are heading for if the Opposition continues to deny the President a role in hammering out that list.”
The Head of State, later in that interview, acceded that the use of the term ‘gridlock’ may be have been too strong an expression. He committed to meeting the Leader of the Opposition to resolve any problems that may have arisen during the “hammering out” process.”
“Although, I used the word gridlock it might be a strong expression. I do feel that there might be a misunderstanding on the part of the Opposition, and I am prepared to sit with the Leader of the Opposition to arrive at an interpretation of what the CCJ said.
As far as I am concerned, the CCJ was quite clear and it means that the President must have a role; must have a role. That is the word the CCJ used “must” have a role and I would resist any attempt to prevent me from exercising the function that has been given to me by the CCJ. The role of the President in the crafting and hammering out of the list must be respected,” said the President.
The Head of State did not insert himself into the “hammering out” process. It was the CCJ which, in its ruling on 18th June, called for a consensual approach rather than unilateral one on both sides.
The CCJ said that the most sensible approach to appointing the Chairman of the Elections Commission was for both the President and Leader of the Opposition to communicate with each other in good faith and to discuss the eligible candidates for the position of Chairman before the formal submission of a list.
The Court said that the two sides “must” agree on the names of six persons who fit the eligibility requirements and are “not unacceptable” to the President.
The Court held that, once the President and the Leader of the Opposition have ‘hammered out’ a list of names “not unacceptable” to the President, the list of six persons must then be formally submitted to the President by the Leader of the Opposition. The President, in turn, must select the Chairman from among those names.
The Court said that such an approach would give the President a role and would remove the possibility of a unilateral appointment of the Chairman of the Elections Commission. This was exactly what the ‘hammering out’ process between the Government and Opposition appointed working groups achieved in four meetings between 8th and 17th July and which resulted in Justice Claudette Singh, S.C, CCH, being named as GECOM Chair on 26th July.
Mr. Ramkarran’s suggestion that the President had no right to be involved in the selection process is ludicrous. President Granger has never indicated that he would select his own nominee. What he made clear is that he has a role to play in the shortlisting of persons “not unacceptable” to him.
“It would be spurious if the opposition insists on exclusively crafting that list or unilaterally crafting that list. The CCJ ruling makes it impossible for that to occur,” President Granger said in 19th July interview while noting that he is not a “passive participant.”
The President, on 4th July, had met the Leader of the Opposition to discuss the appointment of a Chairman of the Elections Commission. The two sides discussed the means of selecting a new Chairman in accordance with the judgment of the CCJ and to ensure that the Commission would be able to function in an uninterrupted manner.
It was agreed at that meeting, that the Leader of the Opposition would submit a list of names of persons for the President’s consideration and, later, Ms. Gail Teixeira, Chief Whip of the Opposition, indicated to Mr. Joseph Harmon, Director General, Ministry of the Presidency, that “the Leader of the Opposition was not averse to the President informally suggesting names in their proposed engagement for his consideration.
Mr. Ramkarran in his blog referred also to a Stabroek News report on the President’s meeting with members of civil society dated 26th July.
He said based on President Granger’s statements on the issue of non-interference in the work of the Elections Commission and the fact that no coercive orders were issued by the CCJ, “the President could still refuse to dissolve Parliament and fix a date for elections.”
The Ministry of the Presidency wishes to remind Mr. Ramkarran that the President has repeatedly committed to the holding of credible, free and fair elections in the shortest possible time.
Moreover, Justice Adrian Saunders, President of the CCJ on 12th July said, “Article 106 of the Constitution invests in the President and the National Assembly and implicitly in GECOM responsibilities that impact on the precise timing of the Elections which must be held. It would not therefore be right for the Court, by the issuance of coercive orders or detailed directives, to presume to instruct these bodies on how they must act and thereby pre-empt the performance by them of their constitutional responsibilities. It is not, for example, the role of the Court to establish a date on or by which the elections must be held, or to lay down timelines and deadlines that, in principle, are the preserve of political actors guided by constitutional imperatives.”
The Head of State has abided by the rulings of the Court and has repeatedly stated that it is for the Elections Commission to guide him on its readiness to conduct GRE. Thereafter, he shall name a date for GRE.
During both of his meetings with the Diplomatic Corps and Civil Society, the President reminded that “The independence of the Elections Commission is safeguarded by the Constitution. It is insulated from political influence, instruction and interference. The President cannot influence, the President cannot instruct, the President cannot interfere, the President cannot tell the Elections Commission when elections must be held neither can the Courts.”
President Granger outlined clearly the Constitutional provisions. He said, “The Constitution (at Article 62) charges the Commission with the conduct of elections:
“Elections shall be independently supervised by the Election[s] Commission in accordance with the provisions of article 162.”
The Constitution (at Article 162 (1)) states:
“The Elections Commission shall have such functions connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections as are conferred upon it by or under this Constitution or, subject thereto, any Act of Parliament; and, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Commission-
(a) 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
(b) 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 of any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the matters aforesaid.
(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Constitution, if the Elections Commission is satisfied that the holding of an election pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 60 or article 160(2) on the day appointed therefor would be attended, either generally or in a particular area, by danger or serious hardship it may, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition by notice published in the Gazette –
(a) postpone the holding of the election to a day specified in the notice; or
(b) postpone the voting in any area specified in the notice to a day so specified.”
The Elections Commission has total control over the elections process.
It is clear from the aforementioned constitutional provisions that while it is the Elections Commission which supervises elections and has to execute its mandate independently, the President must first be advised by Commission of its readiness to conduct elections.
President Granger wrote then Chairman of the Elections Commission, Justice (ret.) James Patterson on 25th February acknowledging his letter dated 21st February.
The Chairman admitted that the Commission did not have the capability to deliver credible GRE within the three-month time-frame beginning 21st December and that both additional funds and additional time were needed.
The Head of State said in his response: “The Government of Guyana is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that the Commission is provided with the financial resources and has sufficient time to conduct credible elections.”
The President wrote further, “I urge the Commission, therefore, to commence preparations for the conduct of GRE.”
President Granger assured the Commission that his Government would “initiate measures to provide the funds required and to seek the approval of the National Assembly to ensure that an agreement can be reached, given both the Constitutional requirements and GECOM’s capability.”
It would be whimsical for the President to name a date for elections and the Elections Commission is unprepared. At all times President Granger has committed to having elections in the shortest possible time.
President Granger has not deviated from the Court’s guidelines or ruling. He has accepted that his Government is an ‘interim’ government due to the passage of the no-confidence motion.
The President has emphasised that Government must continue to provide public services. The Constitution of Guyana 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, the President said will comply with the orders issued by the CCJ that, during this ‘interim’ period, it will restrain the exercise of its legal authority.
President Granger said while the Government will continue its routine management of the country, it will also address urgent issues that are in the public interest. It is also prepared to consult with the Opposition on matters which require the agreement of both sides.
Having regard to the aforementioned, it boggles the mind that Mr. Ramkarran would proceed, like the Stabroek News he writes for, in a stupid excursion aimed at furthering the distorted view that the President has delayed the elections process.