The ball is in GECOM’s court to uphold the Constitution

first_imgDear EditorNow that the Chief Justice has given her ruling on August 14th, 2019, democratic and progressive-minded Guyanese have been vindicated on several counts once again by a judicial authority:-– Elections were due three months after the passage of the no confidence motion on December 21, 2018 in accordance with article 106 which was immediately engaged; the date was not extended by a 2/3 majority of members of the National Assembly;– Whilst the House to House registration by and of itself is not unlawful or unconstitutional, the removal of names from the National Register of Registrants based on persons not being home, overseas etc, and scrapping of the National Register of Registrants, as being done by GECOM, is illegal;– the House to House registration cannot deregister people who are already on the National Register of Registrants, and, therefore, those already on the November 12, 2018 voters’ list do not need to register at House to House registration again;– There is no residency requirement for Guyanese to be on the National Register of Registrants and persons’ names ’cannot be removed unless they die or are no longer Guyanese, except Commonwealth citizens who are here for one year;– The CJ mentioned several times that the voters’ lists can be refreshed by other means as provided in law such as claims and objection;– The Guyana Election Commission must now choose options available to it by law to verify and refresh the Voters’ list taking into consideration the context that elections were due since March 21, 2019.Madam Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George-Wiltshire ruling on August 14th in no way deviated from the Constitution, neither the CCJ ruling of June 18th nor its July 12th consequential orders.The President has not abided with the Caribbean Court of Justice and continues to violate the Guyana Constitution. The President has not acted since December 21, 2018 to name a date for elections.Today is 239 days since the passage of the NCM on December 21, 2018, or 7 months and 27 days.Today is 149 days since March 21 2019 or 4 months and 27 days when elections were due according to article 106 (6) and (7).Over the last eight months, GECOM refused to prepare for elections. In actual fact, it is the Patterson-led GECOM that has been an integral part of the subversion of constitutional rule in our country. This is the first time that elections have not been held within 90 days from the date of dissolution for general and regional elections in 1992, 1997, 2001, 2011, and 2015, and the Local Government Elections of 2016 and 2018 as required by the constitution and statutes. The difference with a No Confidence vote is that the three months period starts on the day that the vote was passed in the National Assembly, and, not from the time the President dissolves the Parliament and the Regional Democratic Councils under normal elections.There is a new Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, and it is hoped that the now fully constituted Commission shall right the injustice done to the Guyanese people over the last eight months and abide with alacrity with the constitutional provisions of article 106 as exhorted by the Caribbean Court of Justice on July 12, 2019.Here is what the CCJ said “The judiciary interprets the Constitution. But, as we intimated in our earlier judgment, these particular provisions {article 106(6) and (7) } require no gloss on the part of the Court in order to render them intelligible and workable. Their meaning is clear and it is the responsibility of constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them. Upon the passage of a vote of no confidence, the Article requires the resignation of the Cabinet including the President. The Article goes on to state, among other things, that notwithstanding such resignation, the Government shall remain in office and that an election shall be held “within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine”…The CCJ then went on to state that “The Guyana Elections Commission (“GECOM”) has the responsibility to conduct that election and GECOM too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution.” { that is elections within 3 months as per article 106 (7) }Following the August 14th 2019 ruling by the Chief Justice, we can logically deduct that this House to House registration–which has insisted that people already registered had to be reregistered– has been a colossal waste of hundreds of millions of dollars, and, most important, time. Time which has been arrogated by the President and his government for an additional 149 days and counting past March 21, 2019 when elections should have been held. This wasteful and redundant expenditure and exercise must stop immediately.The Patterson-led GECOM did everything to ensure that no preparations for elections were commenced prior to March 21, 2019, instead preparing for House to House registration in the said month; this is a travesty that has whittled away the confidence of the people in the Guyana Elections Commission. An issue the new Chairperson and Commission must address urgently in order to win back the confidence of the electorate and it must do so quickly.The figures, which we have been receiving in dribbles from GECOM with no breakdown by region or by any of the 29 Registration Centres, has not and will not imbue confidence. It now claimed as of August 15th that 230,000 over 14 years old have been registered. Given the Chief Justice (ag) ruling, any exclusion of persons who were registered previously on the existing National Register of Registrants during the exercise will be illegal.The country must not be confused with regards to the time for the House to House field exercise and the time allocated for the total House to House registration to be concluded. Given GECOM’s work plan dated February 25th 2019, it was projected that the House to House exercise would take from June 2nd to December 18, 2019, a total of 199 days or 6 months and 16 days. Since the exercise started one month and 18 days later it means that the date would most likely be pushed to early February 2020.Add to that the other consequential processes such as data verification and entry into the National Register of Registrants, cross matching of fingerprints, the production of a Preliminary Voters Lists, a Claims and Objection period, followed by the production of the Official List of Electors, and elections could very well be held into mid-2020.With this in mind, GECOM must avoid the trap of believing that it has now gone so far in the field exercise that it might as well finish the exercise. To do so would be to extend the life of the government into mid-2020 and contribute further to the subversion of constitutional rule, the demoralization of the Guyanese electorate and more wastage of precious time and resources.Based on the Chief Justice ruling the APNUAFC government has been illegal since March 21, 2019, surely this must give impetus to GECOM to act righteously with the full backing of the constitution.The Guyana Elections Commission has the power to halt and should halt this wasteful exercise and immediately commence Claims and Objections period, with the existing Registration centres and staff already in place that has been used for the House to House registration, and be ready to hold elections long before the month of December.Most interestingly in the last few days, Mrs. Garrido-Lowe and the WPA using Congress Place talking points in public statements are now trying to condition December as the month for elections; Congress Place is behaving as if it is above the constitution; it can usurp the constitution, and, throw out the judicial rulings. This new strategy should be condemned.Ultimately it is the President’s call and he has not named a date.I wish to remind the President that article 9 of the Constitution states that“ sovereignty belongs to the people { not to GECOM, not the President, not the Cabinet, not the government}, who exercise it through their representatives and the democratic organs established by or under this constitution”.How do we exercise this sovereignty? Through our power and our right to elect those representatives at elections–a right that the President has been denying the Guyanese electorate since March 21, 2019.The President and his government lost the mandate to govern after its resounding defeat at the Local Government Elections on November 12, 2018—a hard pill to swallow l am sure. Nevertheless, the voters in those 80 Local Authorities Areas represent 90.5% of all voters. The PPP/C won 65% of the 80 Local Authorities. Following that the government lost the confidence of the Legislature on December 21, 2018. The President and APNUAFC Coalition government, therefore, stand exposed without moral, political, parliamentary and constitutional authority.Whilst the President has exclusive powers, these are given within the confines of the constitution and he is subservient to the Constitution, therefore he must announce the following forthwith:-i) The President and Cabinet stand resigned:ii) A caretaker government with restrained and limited authority as spelt out by the Caribbean Court of Justice and Commonwealth parliamentary norms;iii) Name a date for elections;iv) Dissolve the Legislature.How long is Mr. Granger prepared to hold out on calling elections? Is President Granger prepared to go down in history, as one of the first leaders in a parliamentary democracy in any part of the world, to have defied a No Confidence Motion legitimately passed and refused to hold elections within the constitutionally required time frame? I cannot think of one parliamentary democracy where this has happened. Will this be Mr. Granger’s legacy?We assert our right under the Guyana Constitution to exercise our sovereignty and our power to elect our representatives to govern our nation and demand that the President and his illegal government name a date for elections.We urge GECOM to act with alacrity to prepare for elections. GECOM’s mandate is that it must always be ready to hold elections.This is no time to sit on the fence. Who are those amongst us prepared to defend the constitution and democracy? As the next few days and weeks unfold we shall learn who will join us to defend our constitution and our democracy.Sincerely,Gail Teixeiralast_img read more