…calls for apology from Editor-in-Chief
THE Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) said it was astonished at the Stabroek News’ Editorial entitled ‘Temporising’ – which made numerous odious and malicious assertions.
The editorial was published in the Friday July 26, 2019 Edition of the newspaper, and according to the MoTP, it sought to insinuate insincerity and impugn the character of the President and his office in relation to the matters arising out of the passage of the no-confidence motion.
According to the MoTP, the editorial misinterpreted the meaning of the ruling and Consequential Orders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and ignored the process surrounding the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission. “It was with the aim of correcting mistaken opinions that President David Granger, on Thursday July 25, held separate engagements with the Diplomatic Corps and Civil Society. Given the groundwork that the President had done between January and July, therefore, the process could have been brought to a swift and consensual conclusion on July 26, giving the lie to the Stabroek News’ editorial’s silly claims of ‘temporising,’” MoTP said.
The MoTP said President Granger demonstrated prudent leadership in guiding the various processes that followed the December 21, 2018 no-confidence motion against his government and the path for the selection of the Chairman of the Elections Commission.
It recalled that shortly after the motion was passed in the National Assembly, the President held a high-level bilateral meeting with the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo. On February 25, 2019, he had also written the then Chairman of the Elections Commission, Justice (ret.) James Patterson acknowledging his letter dated February 21, 2019.
“The chairman admitted that the commission did not have the capability to deliver credible General and Regional Elections (GRE) within the three-month time-frame beginning December 21, 2019 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,’” MoTP pointed out.
The President had also urged the commission to commence preparations for the conduct of elections while assuring it 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.”
On March 6, the Head of State convened another meeting with the opposition leader after which, on March 8, he engaged the full membership of the Elections Commission. The aim, the MoTP explained, was to determine the commission’s needs and readiness to conduct the elections in the shortest possible time.
“President Granger has not demonstrated any form of “temporising” as indicated in the Stabroek News editorial. The government acted within the law when it approached the courts to seek clarity on matters that are of interest to it,” MoTP said.
It noted too that it was the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland, who had recommended that the “full, final and complete settlement of these issues by a court of competent jurisdiction will place beyond any doubt any question which may exist and serve to give guidance to the Speaker and to the National Assembly for the future.”
The ministry said the government’s recourse to the judiciary aimed only at bringing clarity and certainty to the contentious issues which arose as a result of the no-confidence vote, and not to delay elections as alleged in the editorial.
It said the editorial also ignored completely the processes embarked on by the President and the opposition leader to arrive at a list of candidates who are “not unacceptable” for the post of GECOM Chair. It reminded that it was the CCJ, on June 18 that said 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 ministry detailed.
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 July 8 and 17, which resulted in the acceptable decision of July 26,” the ministry said.
The President, on June 25, and following the ruling of the CCJ which said the appointment of the GECOM Chairman was flawed and therefore void in law, accepted the resignation of the GECOM Chairman. The President, on July 4, 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, Gail Teixeira, Chief Whip of the Opposition, indicated to 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.”
“The President, clearly, sought to engage all stakeholders and has repeatedly committed to the holding of free, fair and credible elections in the shortest possible time. The President, clearly, was methodical in his engagement with the opposition in the selection process up to July 26, when the chairman was finally appointed. The Stabroek News editorial was extremely malicious. The Editor-in-Chief owes the President an apology for accusing him of “temporising,” the MoTP said.