…President says collaboration needed to resolve political challenges
…defends legitimacy of Government
…urges citizens not to be intimidated by incendiary insinuations
President David Granger on Friday assured that his government was not unconstitutional and that there is no legal impediment that restrains it from exercising its functions or requires it to assume only ‘caretaker’ functions.
In an address to the nation, the Guyanese leader said notwithstanding the passage of the motion of no confidence in the National Assembly on December 21, last year, the current political situation “should not be a cause for alarm and anxiety. To this end he said he is prepared to do his part to ensure credible elections are held as he underscored the importance of political cooperation at this critical junction of the country’s history.
“I am prepared to do my 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,” President Granger said.
His address comes days before the expiration of the three month constitutional deadline for the holding of early of elections, which were triggered by the December 21, 2018 vote of no-confidence against the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government. Pending the outcome of an Appeal Court decision on the validity of the motion, the Government needs the support of the Parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to extend the time for the holding of General and Regional Elections.
According to the Constitution, a two-thirds majority of all elected members of the National Assembly is needed to extend the deadline for elections. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has long indicated that it lacks the technical and financial capability to hold the elections within the three month timeframe, and is now in the process of preparing a plan of action for the holding of elections within the shortest possible time.
“I rely on the Commission’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,” the Head of State told the nation.
President Granger said it is his desire that credible elections be held in the shortest possible time, and assured the nation that his Government’s actions are consistent and are in compliance with the Constitution. “I urge everyone not to be intimidated by incendiary insinuations aimed at instigating disaffection which could affect preparations for elections. I assure everyone that the Government will spare no effort to protect your fundamental rights and freedoms. Guyanese, I am confident that the path we have chosen is the best for the nation,” the Head of State told the nation.
In recent days, the Government has had cause to condemn statements made by the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo that President Granger ceases to be President after March 21, 2019. Jagdeo has also called on Guyanese to “chase out” the President and his Ministers. The Government has deemed Jagdeo’s utterances as malicious. It is believed that his remarks are intended to create confusion amongst the populace.
In putting the current political situation into prospective, President Granger, in his address, explained that it was birthed out of a No-Confidence Vote against the Government which activated four concurrent processes. He noted that all of the processes have a bearing on the present political situation.
In identifying the processes, President Granger noted that the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is sacrosanct and supreme; the independence of the Judiciary and the Elections Commission is respected and the National Assembly is functional.
“First, the authority of the legislative branch is unimpaired. The National Assembly remains in session. This is essential because, under the Constitution [at Article 106 (7)], the Assembly could be summoned to expand the time for conducting General and Regional Elections beyond the period of 90 days from the time of the no-confidence vote on 21st December 2018,” he said.
President, in defense of his position, alluded to the case of Attorney General v. the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Leader of the Opposition, in which the Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire stated that the Parliament is not dissolved as a result of the no-confidence motion. The Chief Justice had explained that it is the holding of elections which will be responsible for the dissolution of such a Parliament.
“The National Assembly, therefore, is still vested with the authority to provide the Elections Commission with the time and resources necessary for the conduct of credible General and Regional Elections,” President Granger said.
In the second process, he said the independence of the judicial branch has been respected.
“The Government’s legal right to appeal to the judicial branch to interpret certain issues relating to the no-confidence vote is enshrined in the Constitution. The legal challenges, in so far as the Government is concerned, were neither frivolous nor calculated to frustrate the implications of the no-confidence vote.
“The Speaker of the National Assembly was asked to review his decision in light of the legal issues which arose as to the validity of the vote. He declined to reverse his decision,” President Granger explained.
However, he noted, while the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland declined to reverse decision, he concluded that the a full, final and complete settlement of these issues by a Court of competent jurisdiction will place beyond doubt any question which may exist. The validity of the vote of No-Confidence has been challenged on several grounds including the Opposition’s ‘failure’ to secure an absolute majority and the validity of the vote cast by Charrandass Persaud who sat in the National Assembly in breach of the Constitution by having dual citizenship.
“The Government’s legal actions, therefore, can be viewed as a means of bringing clarity and certainty to the contentious issues which arose as a consequence of the no-confidence vote,” the President noted.
He noted that the Chief Justice, in her rulings on these actions, issued certain declarations and the Government, while challenging aspects of her rulings, continues to comply with them. President Granger emphasized that the Government is conducting its affairs in accordance with the Constitution and with respect for the rule of law. The legal challenges have been taken to the appellate stage and a decision is expected from the Court of Appeal.
Third, the competence of the executive branch is essential to the viability of the state, the President further stated. Alluding to Article 106 (7) of the Constitution, he said the President and Ministers remain in office as provided for by the Constitution. According to that Article, “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.”
He emphasized that the Constitution contemplates continuity of the Government. “There is no legal impediment that restrains the Government from exercising its functions or requires it to assume only ‘caretaker’ functions. The Government continues to protect the country’s borders, natural resources, sovereignty and territorial integrity and to fulfill its international obligations. Citizens will continue to be provided with public services at the central, regional and local levels to ensure their welfare. Life goes on,” the Head of States stated.
Fourth process, he said treats with the electoral process, which must be credible.
The President is confident that if these institutions are allowed to function without interference, the nation could expect a good outcome to the present situation. He assures the nation 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.