General Elections not of paramount importance to Govt – PPP

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

See full statement below: 

The Office of the Leader of the Opposition notes the Address to the Nation by President David Granger, on the afternoon of March 15, 2019 – an address that repeats the fallacies and fictions that the APNU+AFC Coalition Government has been peddling since the December 21, 2018 passage of the no-confidence motion.

To recognize the pattern of duplicity and the peddling of fallacies and fictions, Guyanese have to go back to the night of December 21, 2019, where there was initial acceptance by President Granger and his Government of the consequences that were triggered by the passage of the noconfidence motion. The Coalition, in bad faith, then backpedalled on its initial comments. Fallacies and fictions, as well as excuses, became the new order of the day.

In President Granger’s address to the nation, one of the first fallacies repeated relates to funding for GECOM. The President says GECOM may need additional “resources” for the conduct of General and Regional Elections, when the Fiscal Management and Accountability (FMAA) (Amendment) Act 2015, which he signed off on in August 2015, makes it clear that GECOM can use sums from the $5.731B appropriation to conduct Elections. Also, Article 222A of the Constitution says: “In order to assure the independence of the entities listed in the Third Schedule – (a) the expenditure of each of the entities shall be financed as a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund, determined by a lump sum by way of an annual subvention approved by the National Assembly…(b) each entity shall manage its subvention in such manner as it deems fit for the efficient discharge of its functions, subject only to conformity with the financial practices and procedures approved by the National Assembly to ensure accountability.” Further, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, on November 19, 2019, during the consideration of the 2019 budget for GECOM, said: “Mr Chairman, the sum of $5,371, 061,000 is given as a lump sum to GECOM to use as it sees fit and as it prioritizes.”

The President also insists that his Government has respected the judiciary. However, the January 31, 2019, Chief Justice’s (ag) ruling which made clear that that “cabinet stood resigned” continues to be disregarded. The Chief Justice (ag) ruled that: “I therefore find that Cabinet is not required to resign with all convenient speed, as the resignation under Article 106(6), in my view, takes immediate effect following the defeat of the Government in a vote of confidence by a majority of all elected members of the National Assembly. In this case, Cabinet must be taken to have resigned with immediate effect from the evening of December 21, 2018, and all functions or duties provided in any law to be performed specifically by Cabinet must have ceased from that time.” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, on February 15, 2019, announced that “ministerial plenaries are chaired by the President and includes all of the ministers and therefore has all of the powers that a Cabinet can have.” The Chief Justice also ruled that: “The President and the Ministers cannot therefore remain in Government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with Article 106 Sub Article 7 unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of said Article 106 Sub Article 7.” Therefore, the President’s claim that his government “continues to comply” with the ruling of the Chief Justice (ag) is another fallacy.

Additionally, the President insists that the legal challenges were not “calculated to frustrate the implications of the no-confidence vote” it is clear that the cases advanced represent an abuse of the judicial process. The President claims that the Government’s move to legal action was a move to bring clarity to “contentious” issues. On this point, it must be underscored that:

Prior to the vote on the no-confidence motion, the Government claimed that their 33 votes would be enough to protect it – after the vote, questionable mathematics relative to 33 not being a majority of 65 found its way into government’s legal arguments; and

· Prior to the vote on the no-confidence motion, Charandass Persaud’s votes were validated by the Coalition Government itself – after the vote, the legitimacy of Charandass Persaud sitting in Parliament found its way into government’s legal arguments.

The President refers to the January 3, 2019 ruling of House Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, selectively, to suggest that the Speaker directed the Government to approach the Court. What he fails to admit is that the Speaker refused to reverse his December 21, 2018 ruling (after a ‘request’ made by the Coalition Government) and said: “…a Court of competent jurisdiction will place beyond doubt any question which may exist and serve to give guidance to the Speaker and to the National Assembly for the FUTURE.” The Legislature upheld the validity of the vote on the no-confidence motion.

The President also quotes Article 106 (7) as grounds to claim that he and his Ministers “remain in office” constitutionally. The President fails, here again, to admit that the Explanatory Memorandum, on Page 15, of Bill 14 of 2000 – Constitution (Amendment) – said: “Clause 5 alters Article 106 to provide for the resignation of Cabinet and the President following the defeat of the Government in the National Assembly on a vote of confidence. Although defeated the Government shall remain in office FOR THE PURPOSE OF HOLDING AN ELECTION.” To claim that “the Constitution contemplates continuity of the Government” is yet another fiction being peddled by Granger. Therefore, if – as the President claims – the Government “is conducting its affairs in accordance with the Constitution” of Guyana, we would not be on the precipice of a constitutional crisis. IT IS NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL.

The President’s claim that he has urged the “readiness” of GECOM to conduct “credible elections at the earliest possible time” runs contrary to the actions of Coalition-appointed GECOM Commissioners, who have been insisting on National House to House registration – a process that would delay Elections until 2020 – and Congress Place, where a call for ‘war’ in every Region was issued. He also contradicts himself when he comments on the need for a sanitized Voters’ List – a list that was used without complaint less than four months ago for Local Government Elections.

Clearly, the holding of General and Regional Elections is not of paramount importance for the Granger-led Government. For the President to claim that he is acting responsibly, not recklessly, because he did not receive “guidance” from GECOM to allow him to proclaim a date for Elections – having met with GECOM on March 8, 2019 – is another fiction, as that meeting largely focused on national House-to-House Registration. It must be noted, that at the very March 8, 2019 meeting, the President rejected a work plan from the Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners, which contemplated the holding of General and Regional Elections on April 29, 2019. The President has insisted that he is waiting on GECOM to be ready, while his own Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, has said that GECOM is waiting on the President to name a date before it can begin to ready itself for Elections.

The President’s comments on the issue of GECOM underscore the duplicity with which he continues to act on this issue. This duplicity is evidenced when the President claims that GECOM is “insulated from political interference” – when, in fact, it is none other than the President who violated the balance of GECOM by unilaterally appointing a GECOM Chairman and transforming GECOM into a partisan body that dances to the tune of his Government. GECOM’s partisan actions were evidenced when, initially, the GECOM Secretariat, on December 27, 2018, declared that it would be ready to deliver Elections, yet weeks later, backpedalled on that position.

The Office of the Opposition Leader maintains that President Granger abdicated his responsibility to name a date for General and Regional Election when he, without constitutional cover, hides behind GECOM and says that it is the Commission that must determine an elections date. GECOM is subservient to the Constitution. The President talks about “collaboration” but has not acted in good faith when engaging the Parliamentary Opposition. Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, proposed an option that would have seen Elections being held on or before April 30, 2019 – and made clear that if the proposal was accepted the Opposition would support an extension of the Government’s life in office. This was rejected by President Granger.

The Office also reiterates that the life of the Coalition Government can only be extended by a two-thirds vote in the National Assembly. If there is no such vote, the life of the Government ends; the maximum timeline set by the Constitution (three months after the passage of the no confidence motion) will have expired. The clock has been ticking since December 21, 2018, and there has been no stay of that timeline by the Court.

After March 21, the APNU+AFC Coalition Government becomes unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal. Sole responsibility for the impending constitutional crisis rests with President Granger and his government.

The President’s failure to address the fundamental issues has been addressed by the Parliamentary Opposition, repeatedly. The Guyanese people have witnessed the disparity between the platitudes offered and the actions of the Granger-led Government.


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