Jagdeo says Coalition Govt illegal since March 21st

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has declared that his party – the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) — now views the coalition Government as unconstitutional following the ruling of Chief Justice Roxane George, who refused to set a date by which constitutionally-due early elections ought to be held.

At his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo explained that this position is being taken since the December 21, 2018 passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) triggered early elections within three months, and since there was no extension by the National Assembly to extend this timeline as required, then General and Regional Elections ought to have been held by March 21, 2019.

“My new position in the PPP and based on this new ruling… [is] since March 21 of this year, the Government has been practicing unconstitutional rule. It has been a usurper of power in Guyana. It has acted outside of the provision of our Constitution. We were prepared to allow this to happen after September 18; to be generous and say after September 18, you go into unconstitutional rule. But if they think this ruling helps now, well it only reiterated what we already know that the Government has been a usurper of power since March 21,” Jagdeo posited.

Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire

According to the Opposition Leader, this now means that every deal and agreement made by the coalition since then will become null and void.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Roxane George dismissed an application filed by Christopher Ram, who challenged the constitutionality of ongoing House-to-House Registration and asked the Court to compel the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, and others to hold elections on or before September 18, which is three months since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) validated the passage of the NCM against the Government.

However, the Chief Justice noted that like the Trinidad-based regional Court ruled, the High Court cannot set a date by which elections ought to be held and that the conduct of House-to-House Registration is not illegal.

But she did note that it would be unconstitutional for the registration exercise to remove qualified persons from the voters’ list for reasons other than death or those disqualified under Article 159 (2), (3), or (4).

Pointing out that the “right to vote and the right to be registered to vote are sacrosanct”, the High Court Judge said “residency requirements from citizens are no longer a qualification for registration”. This means that persons cannot be removed from the list if they do not re-register, or if they are not in the jurisdiction or otherwise not at their residence during the registration exercise.

According to the Opposition Leader, this is a victory for the Opposition, which had joined in on Ram’s legal challenge.