Delay in CCJ ruling on NCM encouraging GECOM’s wilfulness

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A bench of five Justices from the Caribbean Court of Justice heard submissions from all parties in the No Confidence Motion and Guyana Elections Commission cases, in two marathon sessions on May 9 and May 10 and much hinges on whatever decision they deliver.

The crucial decision was on the calculation of what constituted a “majority” to give effect to Art 106 (6): “The President and the Cabinet shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of majority of all elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” That time has already elapsed and another week is about to expire.

During the hearings, Justice Saunders had asked the Attorney representing GECOM, Stanley Marcus: “If the vote of no-confidence was valid and if Parliament ought to be dissolved and if the parties don’t agree to extend the three-month period then we have a choice between a situation where with each passing day beyond that three-month period—a dagger is being thrown at the constitution every day and on the other hand having an election which is a little bit less than perfect. Now, which of those two options is better for democracy?”

Justice (retired) James Patterson

Marcus allowed that democracy could not be sacrificed for “speed” upon which Justice Saunders cited the Constitutional alternative of Art 106 (7) which reads, “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, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”

However, even as Guyana awaits the CCJ judgement, GECOM sponsored advertisements about house to house registration have sprung up. According to a GECOM Commissioner, going ahead with the exercise is flouting the law.

GECOM proceeding at own risk

In an interview with this publication, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj made it clear that he respects the process the CCJ has to go through before they arrive at a decision. But he noted that GECOM’s use of that time to proceed with house to house registration is in breach of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act of 2000.

“As it relates to the renewal of the list of electors, the actions of GECOM to proceed with House to House Registration amounts to a deliberate flouting of the laws of Guyana, specifically Act 15/2000 and Act 10/2018.”

PPP Commissioner, Sase Gunraj

The law stipulates that the list shall be updated by Continuous Registration and/or Claims and Objections and this should have been embarked upon since last year and at latest, in January 2019 after the Commission reconvened.

According to Gunraj, GECOM’s tenuous standing is especially the case in light of the fact that no information regarding expenditure has been presented to the Commission for approval or even scrutiny by all the commissioners.

“These actions will no doubt be reviewed, preferably by the CCJ or some other competent court, at some time later. In the meantime, to do so would be to their own peril,” Commissioner Gunraj added.

Earlier this month, GECOM was advised by its own Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzel’s, that “based on (election laws), the voters list must be updated bi-annually by adding persons who are now qualified to be registered, to that list and those who are no longer qualified to be registered, to be taken off that list.”

Meanwhile, if the Caribbean Court of Justice rules that last year’s no confidence motion against the Government was validly passed, it means early elections would be required and the Government by law should have held elections since March 19 of this year.