Since the successful passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) of December 21, 2018, there should have been early elections in our country, 15-18 months earlier than otherwise.
Following the no-confidence vote, I and all of us Guyanese would have been relieved and heartened by the press conference quickly called in Parliament by our Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, accepting the validity of the NCM and the requirement to hold elections within 90 days as laid out in our Constitution. He likened that surprising, historical event in our political development to the varying fortunes of teams in the game of cricket. The next morning a statement came out from our President, His Excellency, David A Granger endorsing the position of his Prime Minister.
It has not been cricket since then; our President, our Prime Minister and our coalition Government have been backtracking since then. Today, nearly 8 months later, we still have no definite date for the early elections. Indeed, some seem to be smirking that elections may be even later than they would have otherwise been. Our President, our Prime Minister and our coalition Government may pride themselves in having so far thwarted the NCM. Have they not given any thought to the cost to our society of their erosion of trust and social cohesion?
Yes, we PPP and PPP/C have been put to the test, once again, of keeping the faith in Guyana – enduring and paying the price to keep Guyana whole. We recognise some reward – we see that more and more of our fellow citizens have been reconsidering the stories that they have imbibed about us, the PPP and the PPP/C, in the face of the great and obvious tomfoolery by many members of our coalition Government and their supporters in their interpretations of our Constitution and the various rulings of our courts. Also, there have been major, if plodding, successes in the rulings of our courts. In particular, our final court, the CCJ, in its rulings on June 18, 2019, and its consequential orders on July 12, 2019, held that 1) the NCM was validly passed and the relevant Articles in our Constitution should be complied with and 2) the procedure by which our President first appointed the GECOM Chairman was flawed. That Chairman, after some hesitation, has since resigned. Our President has subsequently, recently, appointed a new Chairman of GECOM in a process satisfying the letter and spirit of the relevant Articles in our Constitution. A reasonable interpretation of the hearings at the CCJ is that GECOM should always hold itself ready to hold an election within 90 days. Our President is still to demand this of GECOM and put us on the road to early elections.
We recall that along the way, the pleadings made by our Attorney General against Mr Charrandas Persaud’s presence and vote in the Parliament because of his dual citizenship turned around and bit them. After some delay, following our Chief Justice’s ruling in January 2019 we saw the coalition Government appearing to accede to, then backtrack, and eventually, their four dual citizen Ministers resigned. I will not dwell here on whether those Ministers may not now be even more entrenched in certain ways than before – we citizens should observe and our coalition Government should know that they cannot evade their due deserts for too long.
Our anxious focus now is understandably on GECOM, including a number of decisions taken (or purported to have been taken) by the earlier, improperly appointed Chairman. We regret the pressure placed on the new Chairman from our anxiety and expectations of her being guided by the CCJ rulings of June 18, 2019, and the recent Acting Chief Justice’s rulings on August 14, 2019.
The Acting Chief Justice, Justice Roxane George’s August 14, 2019, ruling was very clear. Among other comments that formed part of her ruling, she said:
“The NCM (No-Confidence Motion) is an extraordinary circumstance that GECOM must bear in mind in its decision-making as it conducts the House-to-House Registration and for that matter any verification process that has as the objective, the compilation or revision of the list of electors for the required upcoming elections.
“…as such, since GECOM is seeking to register electors, GECOM may have to consider other options including what other methods of verification of the list may have to be utilised whether in conjunction with or separately with the House-to-House exercise.
“…GECOM is an independent body, that is not subject to the control or direction of any person or authority and while it is incumbent on GECOM to produce a credible list and a credible election, it is subject to the Constitution and the laws and cannot act as though it is a normal registration or election cycle.”
Justice Roxane George’s ruling validated our PPP position that the House-to-House Registration, hurriedly and questionably embarked upon, could not be used to deregister persons and should, therefore, be judged as a waste of time and money. Our fears are that the H2H Registration as represented by GECOM was intended to create opportunities for manipulating our NRR, deregistering eligible voters, introducing “phantom” voters and ultimately, for delaying the elections.
Editor, all eyes are now on the new Chairperson of GECOM, Justice Claudette Singh, and what will be the Commission’s decision on the way forward – a decision that will hopefully come after the next meeting of the full Commission.
The position of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has been publicly expounded on repeatedly. There should be a move towards a Claims and Objections exercise as a means of updating and refreshing the last valid List of Voters to facilitate the holding of elections in the shortest possible time – bearing in mind that General and Regional Elections ought to have been held since March 21, 2019.
I wish to reiterate that all eyes are on GECOM. As an independent, constitutional agency, much is expected from the Commission.
We of the PPP and PPP/C will persevere in keeping our faith that the overwhelming majority of us Guyanese want to be fair, want to put Guyana first, and want to see Guyana being put first. We will persevere and we believe we will be rewarded in more and more of our fellow citizens accepting that we have been good and will be good for all Guyanese and Guyana.
Samuel A A Hinds
Former Prime Minister and former President