…says President has to lead from the front, set date for elections
Much is at stake if the Government continues to disregard the Constitution and leadership is not shown by President David Granger, who, by law, has to set a date for elections that is in keeping with the Constitution of Guyana, but, since December 2018, has failed to do so.
This is according to former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, who was at the time appearing on the Globespan 24×7 live show in New York, USA on Sunday.
Also appearing on the panel with her was Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Executive Member, Dr David Hinds and Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Presidential Candidate Lenox Shuman.
According to Teixeira, Guyana is at a crossroads where it can either respect the Constitution, or become a pariah State that does not respect the rule of law. She noted that the onus was on President Granger to respect the Constitution.
She pointed out that despite the ruling, the status quo remained the same, and Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson remained at the helm of the elections body despite being declared unconstitutionally appointed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
She stressed the importance of the President making efforts in good faith to comply with the ruling and the Constitution, so that his public utterances that he respected the CCJ ruling could have some credibility. These good-faith efforts, she noted, would include Granger seeking Patterson’s resignation.
“The attitude of the Government since the ruling has been less than inspiring and, frankly, quite disturbing. We need good-faith efforts by the President, to advise Mr Patterson to resign. We have to have good-faith efforts by Granger to name a date for elections within 90 days from June 18, based on the CCJ ruling.
“Those two things, were he to do them, would certainly enhance the Government’s dedication or declared dedication to the Constitution and would give some comfort to Guyanese that we are still within the democratic fold of countries. That is the next step,” Teixeira said.
According to Teixeira, anything other than concrete good-faith efforts from the President would mean he has been paying nothing but lip service when he declared his respect for the decision. Her call for good-faith measures was echoed by Shuman.
Meanwhile, Dr Hinds noted that the two political sides now have to come together in some kind of compromise. According to Hinds, it is his hope that the leaders can put the country as a priority in seeking such a compromise.
However, Teixeira high-lighted the importance of the Constitution, which she noted was supposed to guide the behaviour of citizens and was sacrosanct. She also pointed to all the effort that went into creating the constitutional changes during the 1999 to 2001 constitutional reform process.
As a way forward, all the panelists were in agreement that the political parties should agree on a strict timeline to be followed in order to appoint a new GECOM Chairman. And with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo already declaring that he has a list of candidates ready to provide to the President, Teixeira noted that such an appointment could be made in a week by the President.
Last week, the CCJ ruled that the no-confidence motion tabled in Guyana’s National Assembly in December 2018 had been validly passed and, therefore, general elections must be held within a stipulated time frame. It also ruled that Patterson was illegally appointed.
But while Granger publicly announced his respect for the CCJ rulings, his Ministers have been less respectful. Government Ministers have, in fact, made statements that defied the CCJ rulings and even the CCJ’s jurisdiction in Guyana – although Guyana has recognised the Court as its final appeals court since 2005. The first such statements were made by Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
According to Jordan, the coalition Government is not prepared to call elections unless House-to-House Registration is carried out regardless of what the CCJ or anyone says. Jordan made this statement during a Government outreach in Bartica on Tuesday, in the presence of several other Ministers of Government.
At the time, Jordan also rallied coalition supporters to protest if necessary for House-to-House Registration. This is despite the fact that this exercise is likely to further delay elections that were constitution-ally due since March 21 of this year.
On Friday, Minister of State, Dawn Hastings-Williams rejected the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction during a bizarre protest staged by several Government Ministers and a few A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) supporters outside GECOM’s headquarters, where they were calling for House-to-House Registration before elections were held.
Hastings-Williams voiced her blatant disregard for the CCJ as Guyana’s final court of appeal by saying that that Court had no authority to issue any consequential orders on Monday, since Guyana is an independent state with its own laws. The PNC, through General Secretary Amna Ally, has since distanced itself from her comments.
The CCJ has set today as the date to hand down con-sequential orders, though it has given the opposing sides an opportunity to craft their own way forward, to be submitted to the Court for consideration.