…President says are key benchmarks before polls
A credible List of Electors and a realistic timeframe for the conduct of General and Regional Elections are important benchmarks that must be met, President David Granger said on Wednesday as he once again reassured Guyanese of his administration’s commitment to holding elections in the shortest possible time.
Today, the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh is expected to communicate the timeframe for which elections could be held to President Granger. Speaking to reporters on the sideline of an accreditation ceremony at the Ministry of the Presidency on Wednesday, President Granger said he is focused on having credible elections in a short a time as possible using a ‘clean list.’ Certain benchmarks, he said, must be met to facilitate credible elections. “The most important benchmark is that the Commission, as a whole is satisfied that the list is credible and that it is more or less representative of the electorate, that it is not padded, that it does not contain spurious names – that is the most important benchmark,” the Head of State told reporters.
Secondly, he said the timeframe set for elections must be one that is achievable. “The second bench mark is that they must give me more or less a certificate of readiness, and after that I am good to go,” he further stated. The Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – has been pushing for the Official List of Electors (OLE) to be extracted from the current National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB) established since 2008 but the Government through its coalition partners – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC) – have championed the cause for a new registered to be developed through a process of House-to-House Registration, from which a OLE could be extracted. In their defense, the coalition partners have argued that the current register is bloated with thousands of persons who are either dead or have migrated. Recent reports have suggested that non-Guyanese nationals were able to secure Identification Cards (IDs) using fake birth certificates. This matter is under active consideration.
For those reasons, the coalition has been pressing for a sanitised list. “…We were aware from our members and supporters and persons in the field that even in Local Government Elections, there had been some transgressions, that in some riverine areas where governmental scrutiny was weak or where it lapsed, there were multiple voting and people who were not entitled to vote voted,” President Granger explained as he underscored the importance of a clean list.
In keeping with a decision of the Commission, the Elections Secretariat had initiated House-to-House Registration but as a result of a decision of the High Court, a subsequent decision was taken to shorten the period for House-to-House Registration and merge the data with the existing National Register of Registrants Database. GECOM, ahead of its decision, has promised an extended Claims and Objections period to aid in the sanitisation of the list.
The opposition and its supporters have planned countrywide protests if election is not held this year but President Granger said, while his Government would wish to have elections soonest, it is the Elections Commission that has exclusive responsibility to facilitate elections.
“But this is not in my hands. People are calling on me, people are picketing but I cannot do anything because I do not have the authority. I cannot go out and print ballot paper, appoint returning officers; I cannot detail where polling stations would be, these are functions given exclusively to the elections commission,” President Granger said. He made it clear that he cannot and will not interfere in the operations of the electoral body.
President Granger said he too is desirous of having elections soonest. “It is very uncomfortable for me as a Head of State to labour under the restrictions of an interim administration…Apart from my health, I have not accepted any invitations to go to foreign countries, many of my ministers have had their travels restricted; we cannot bring a budget to parliament; we cannot engage in certain types of projects, which are regarded as irreversible; and the whole business of government has been slowed because we are obedient to and compliant with the instructions of the CCJ…So it is uncomfortable for me to remain in this condition,” he told reporters. Last Friday, he pointed out, a Government Parliamentary delegation led by Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence met with the Elections Commission to discuss the pending elections.
However, he maintained that GECOM must be allowed to do its work.
“The Elections Commission must be allowed to continue the task of preparing for the forthcoming general and regional elections. The Commission has an obligation to assure the public that it is ready to conduct credible elections and to advise the President of its readiness to do so. I could then dissolve Parliament and issue a proclamation appointing a date on which elections could be held in accordance with the Constitution,” President Granger said on Monday in an address to the nation.
He iterated that since the No-Confidence Motion, he has been in contact with GECOM and through the National Assembly has ensured that the electoral body has the financial resources needed to facilitate elections.
“I have acted expeditiously throughout the year to ensure that credible general and regional elections are held. I consulted the Elections Commission on two occasions. I consulted the Leader of the Opposition on three occasions to select a new Chairman of the Elections Commission in accordance with the Constitution (at Article 161 (1)). I appointed Justice Claudette Singh, SC, CCH, as Chairman of the Commission and administered the Oath of Office to her on 29th July 2019,” the President had said on Monday in an address to the nation.
On Wednesday, President Granger while reiterating his position said the Parliament and Cabinet remain intact, noting that he remains the President until a new President is sworn in. “The Executive has not been removed, the Cabinet has not been removed, I remain President until I am replaced as President,” he posited. In the event a No-Confidence Motion is passed, the Constitution provides for the three month timeframe to be extended by an act of Parliament but to date this has not been done thought the three month period has long expired. President Granger is still hopeful that an official extension can be granted. “I believe that we will go back to parliament once an agreement can be reached with the Leader of the Opposition,” he posited.