– as PM accuses Opposition of stalling process to appoint GECOM chair
PRESIDENT David Granger stands committed to setting a date for general elections based on the advice of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), but that advice cannot be given until and unless a chairman of the Elections Commission is appointed, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo explained on Sunday.
In his weekly column ‘My Turn,’ published in the Guyana Chronicle, Prime Minister Nagamootoo lauded the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for affirming Guyana’s sovereign right to fix a date for elections by rejecting the invitation from the Opposition to usurp the powers the Constitution invested in the President, the National Assembly and indirectly, GECOM.
The Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), had wanted the CCJ to fix a date for new elections within a period of three months, that is, on or before September 18. But the President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders, while delivering the consequential orders following the validation of the No-Confidence Motion against the government, said it is not within the remit of the Court to set a date for elections.
“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,” Justice Saunders explained.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo said while the Court indicated that an election should be held within three months of the valid passage of a no-confidence motion, or such longer period as the National Assembly could determine, it unequivocally affirmed that GECOM has the responsibility to conduct that election.
The prime minister said President Granger is committed to setting a date for elections, but that must be done on the advice of the Elections Commission. However, the Elections Commission is at a standstill due to the fact that its last Chairman, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson resigned shortly after the CCJ ruled on June 18, 2019 that the process of appointing him to the position was flawed and in breach of the Constitution.
“… As I write, the Elections Commission, which is charged by the Constitution with the responsibility of holding elections, is headless. Reminiscent of the use during medieval times of the guillotine, the head of the last chairman fell at the behest of the Opposition that successfully canvassed that the process by which he had been appointed was flawed. No new chairman has been appointed,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo stated.
He said the process of appointing a new chairman, which requires the Opposition Leader to submit six nominees not unacceptable to the President for his consideration, is being dragged out by the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
President Granger last Friday said he is prepared to appoint a new GECOM chair by today, Monday, July 15, but the Opposition Leader is yet to submit a list of six persons not unacceptable to the President.
“Under directives from the CCJ, the Government and Opposition were engaged in hammering out nominees who are eligible for appointment, but it appears that that process was stalled. The CCJ has advised on a consensual approach that would give the president a role in the identification of nominees, but the Opposition might be walking back on the undertaking that the President could suggest or submit names,” the prime minister explained.
With the President indicating that he is prepared to appoint a GECOM chair today, if the Opposition Leader acts in a consensual manner and in good faith, Prime Minister Nagamootoo is hopeful that Jagdeo will soon submit a list consisting of six nominees who are not unacceptable to the President.
“It is only after the commission is properly composed, and begins to function that any movement towards fresh elections would have meaning. It is the Elections Commission that has to ensure that there is a credible voters list, and it has to present to the President a work plan with a time-frame within which the list could be verified,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo further explained.
In his third broadcast to the nation within the past 10 days, the President stressed: “GECOM has to advise the President on its readiness to conduct elections…The credibility of the elections is dependent, in part, on the integrity of the Official List of Electors. I maintain that a contaminated list can vitiate the credibility of elections.”
The prime minister noted that at the heart of the refusal of the Court to intervene in the electoral process, is the belief that the Guyanese political actors could deliver free, fair and credible elections in Guyana.
“By throwing the electoral ball back to these players, the CCJ has opened wide the doors in Guyana for parliamentary, representative and participatory democracy. It explained.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo said the CCJ has now put finality to the judicial processes and has vested confidence in Guyana’s leaders and institutions to do what is right.
He pointed out that in affirmation of the country’s sovereignty, Justice Saunders stated: “Due observance of constitutional democracy and the rule of law in Guyana rests, in large measure, with the conduct of the various branches of government, that is, the President and the Cabinet, the Parliament and the Judiciary. All must be faithful to the spirit and letter of the Constitution and operate within the parameters given to each by the Constitution.”
Reflecting on the past eight months, Prime Minister Nagamootoo said that Guyana has navigated the perilous political and constitutional waters with calm and confidence. He noted that the coalition government in the interim between the no-confidence vote and the final pronouncements by the Court, has carried out its routine functions in the public interest without excesses or arbitrariness, and has engaged the parliamentary opposition on the way forward.
“It is expected that parliament could determine by a motion how soon elections can be held, after the re-constituted GECOM provides a time-frame for preparation of a voters list. There is no need for political one-upmanship, as any positive outcome would give a clear message that our political leaders could find common ground in the national interest, and could cooperate and work together,” he said.