House-to-House Registration represents “open defiance” by GECOM’s CEO to Constitution, CCJ ruling – Jagdeo

Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Bharrat Jagdeo
General Secretary of the PPP/C Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has warned that any attempts to pursue House-to-House registration instead of elections would be in defiance of the pronouncements made by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

In a recently published gazette, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) announced that House-to-House registration will begin from July 20 and last until October. Though it was signed by the former GECOM Chairman retired Justice James Patterson since June 11, the gazette was only recently made public.

Jagdeo pointed out that the exercise, if pursued, will not uphold the constitutional deadline for elections and creates a ‘worrisome’ atmosphere.

“This is very worrisome to the entire country because it represents an open defiance by the Chief Elections Officer of GECOM to the Constitution of Guyana and the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice,” said Jagdeo.

GECOM’s lawyer Stanley Marcus had told the CCJ on June 24 that GECOM must have House-to-House registration and that the earliest a voters’ list will be ready is by December 25, 2019 – pushing elections which ought to have been held since before March 21, 2019 – to next year. This was challenged after the Opposition insisted that a claims and objections period could fix the list in a shorter period of time to ensure that all voters are on the official voters’ list.

“The Court took all of that into consideration and ordered that elections be held within the period outlined in the Constitution, which is three months and GECOM must comply with the Constitution. That’s clear as daylight in their order which was issued on July 12”.

The former President pointed out that the elections body is aware of the fact that this process will delay the elections. Consequently, he shared that Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfied is acting against the Court’s directive.

GECOM’s CEO Keith Lowenfield

The gazette order for House-to-House registration was done on June 11, prior to the CCJ ruling and consequential orders which followed after. He commented that the Court’s decision should take precedence.

“They forgot that subsequent to the gazetting of that order, that there was a Court ruling because this was done before the June 18 decision of the Court and definitely before the July 12 consequential order which states elections in three months”, Jagdeo said.

Jagdeo related, “I have briefed the international community about the rogue behaviour of GECOM because it is not acting in compliance with Constitution and the decision of the Court. We will be following up this matter further”.

Three of commissioners from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) had warned officers at the body to comply with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) directive and work towards holding elections, lest they be hit with sanctions for breaking the law.

In a statement on Saturday, Opposition-nominated Commissioners Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn urged GECOM and its Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield to awake from their slumber and immediately begin preparations for elections.