While Government has continued to argue that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) never said when elections should be held, at least one top functionary has publicly conceded that the courts did intend elections to be held by September 18, 2019.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister and Vice President and now Foreign Secretary, Carl Greenidge, made these comments during a recent appearance on the Globespan 24×7 live show in New York.
It was pointed out by his co-panellist, Member of Parliament for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Dr Frank Anthony, that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had set a date by which elections should be held.
“Within 90 days is not a date. It is an outside date… I don’t know you could say we didn’t want to have elections. What you are faced with is an outside date in which the court is saying you must have elections by such and such a date…,” Greenidge said in reply.
“… And I certainly agree that the Court has made a decision, but what I’m saying to you is that the Court has said elections must be held by September 18, which does not justify you starting a war today on the grounds that elections should have been held in December,” he added.
New GECOM Chair
Greenidge also noted during the discourse that the processes and the appointment of new Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairperson Retired Justice Claudette Singh must be given a chance to function.
“One of the things recommended (by the CCJ) was a new Chair. That has been done. It has not been easy. This is a new Chairperson. Not part of any old system. Therefore, I would urge that we pay attention to that, so the process can be as smooth and expeditious as possible”.
Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence”.
Meanwhile, Article 106 (7) states: “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”.
A No-Confidence Motion was passed against the Government on December 21 of last year. However, elections were not held and there was no resignation. Instead, Government went to court unsuccessfully arguing that the No-Confidence Motion was not validly passed.
The case reached the CCJ, where the regional Court ruled against the Government, but stopped short of issuing an order fixing an election date. Instead, CCJ President Justice Adrian Saunders had said that when the No-Confidence Motion was passed on December 21, 2019, Article 106 of the Constitution had immediately been activated.
According to Justice Saunders when he read the ruling, there was no need for the Court to gloss over the provisions of Articles 106 (6 and 7), but it is in fact the responsibility of the constitutional actors to be faithful to the rule of law and operate within parameters of the Constitution.
“Upon the passage of a vote of no confidence, the Article requires the resignation of the Cabinet including the President. The Article goes on to state, among other things, that notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and that an election shall be held 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,” Saunders had said.
Further, the CCJ President had noted that with GECOM also responsible for the conduct of those elections, it therefore meant that the elections body “too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution”.
He went on to point out that elections should have been held on March 21, 2019, following the December passage of the Opposition-sponsored motion, but that the process was on “pause” pending the legal proceedings.
That process, Saunders had clearly said, was no longer on pause following the Court’s June 18, 2019 ruling, which upheld the validity of the No-Confidence Motion and, thus, triggered the need for fresh elections. In keeping with the constitutional three-month provision, this means General and Regional Elections should be held on or before September 18, 2019.