The APNU+AFC Coalition Government-nominated Commissioners at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the unilaterally appointed GECOM Chairman, James Patterson, today demonstrated their illogical willingness to toe the Government line, and in so doing have made the Constitution of Guyana subservient to the will of GECOM.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) reiterates that the provisions of the Constitution are clear on the consequences of the successful passage of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly – the validity of which was upheld by the High Court following a ruling from the Chief Justice (ag). Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Article 106 (7) goes on to state that: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election 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, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
Moreover, GECOM’s mandate, as stipulated by the Constitution, is also clear. Article 162 (1) of the Constitution states clearly that: “The Elections Commission shall have such functions connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections as are conferred upon it by or under this Constitution or, subject thereto, any Act of Parliament.” GECOM is subservient to the Constitution of Guyana, not the other way around.
By a four to three majority, the vote of the GECOM Chairman included, a vote at today’s weekly statutory meeting of GECOM, resulted in a decision to: 1) inform President David Granger that GECOM cannot conduct elections within 90 days after December 21, 2018; and 2) to inform President David Granger that GECOM needs funding for elections. The PPP is of the view that the situation at GECOM, with this sort of action, will undoubtedly guarantee that Guyana is pushed towards a constitutional crisis.
The Government-nominated GECOM Commissioners and the GECOM Chairman have voted to inform President Granger that it cannot be ready for General and Regional Elections, as constitutionally due before the end of March 2019, while the Commission has taken no action to ready itself for these elections. GECOM’s refusal to begin preparations for General and Regional Elections, after the December 21, 2018 vote on the no-confidence motion, finds it complicit in frustrating the timeline for the constitutionally due elections.
Additionally, there has been no effort to make a decision on what obtains in the short-term. There has also been no decision at the level of the Commission on when GECOM will be ready for elections. Secondly, on the issue of funding, the PPP is of the view that this is the latest hurdle thrown up by the government-influenced parties at GECOM. The first hurdle introduced was the call for new house-to-house registration – which has been exposed as unnecessary at this time. The Guyanese people witnessed the call to violence by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the majority partner in the Coalition Government, which was exposed by a widely circulated video of PNCR members calling for “war” in all Regions of Guyana if GECOM does not hold house-to-house registration.
The People’s Progressive Party maintains that the laws of Guyana are clear on funding for constitutional agencies like GECOM. Act 4 of 2015 – the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act 2015, Section 80 B (8) – makes it clear that: “The appropriation of a Constitutional Agency approved by the National Assembly shall be disbursed as a lump sum by the end of the month, following the month in which the appropriation was approved.” Section 80B (7) of the same act states that: “The annual budget of a Constitutional Agency approved by the National Assembly shall not be altered without prior approval of the National Assembly.”
This section clearly prohibits the Minister of Finance from altering the appropriation to GECOM, as he is empowered to do with the appropriations of non-constitutional agencies, but does not prevent GECOM from utilizing the “lump sum” as it sees fit to carry out its functions. Undoubtedly, today’s action by GECOM is intended to influence the court proceedings, set to continue tomorrow (Wednesday, February 20, 2019). The Constitution make clear that the judiciary cannot extend the deadline for which General and Regional Elections are constitutionally due; rather such an act remains in the remit of the Legislature.
The Party has noted the Guyana Chronicle is already engaged in spin mode, indicating that approval was given at today’s GECOM meeting for new house-to-house registration to commence. Obviously, the state media is also complicit in the plot to delay General and Regional Elections. The Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioners have communicated clearly that the specific issue of house-to-house registration was not discussed and voted on at today’s meeting.
The contention of the PPP is, that the time is opportune for international action – as was needed in 1990 to ensure constitutional compliance. As was the case then, Guyana is faced with a situation where GECOM is dominated by the PNCR. At risk are the democratic gains that have been made over the past two decades. We call on all Guyanese, as well as the international community, to condemn the PNCR’s call for “war” and GECOM’s complicity in the violation of our Constitution. We are inexorably heading towards a constitutional crisis and President Granger will be held solely responsible for this, and its attendant negative consequences for Guyana and the Guyanese people. People’s Progressive Party.