Following yesterday’s ruling by Chief Justice Roxane-George Wiltshire that elections should have been held by March 21 and not the forwarded date of September 18, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has dubbed the APNU+AFC Coalition as a “usurper” and an illegal government.

Attorney-at-law Christopher Ram had approached the court requesting a Conservatory Order halting the continuation of the house-to-house registration exercise, which he contended will clash with the September 18 date for elections. Yesterday, however, the Chief Justice rejected this date and held that elections should have been conducted no later than March 21, 2019, since the no-confidence motion was validly passed on December 21, 2018.

According to Jagdeo, the Chief Justice’s refusal to set a date for elections is not relitigable; rather, he said, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) made it clear and the CJ reiterated yesterday in her ruling that the Constitution of Guyana “reigns supreme” and that it says that elections should be held within three months after the passage of a no-confidence motion. This date, however, has long elapsed. Justice George-Wiltshire further said that GECOM is an independent body and the courts cannot tell it what method of verification to use. She said that by conducting house-to-house registration, GECOM is acting within the confines of the relevant laws governing the constitutional body and the court would only intervene if GECOM was found to be doing otherwise.

Article 106 (7) of the Constitution states, “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.”

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had mounted calls for elections to be held by September 18 following the CCJ’s validation of the no-confidence motion. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the PPP had been “generous” in setting this date from the CCJ’s ruling on June 18.

However, the house-to-house registration exercise commenced on July 20 and the party had argued that the timeline for the holding of elections would conflict with the house-to-house registration.

“We demonstrated that on the basis of GECOM’s work programme that it [house-to-house registration exercise] would take things into elections next year,” Jagdeo explained. Justice George-Wiltshire yesterday ruled that the house-to-house registration exercise is legal and not in violation of Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution.

However, Jagdeo said, the Chief Justice’s ruling yesterday has “certified” that the date should have actually been March 21, thereby making the government a “usurper” since then and Guyana under an unconstitutional rule.

“President Granger has been running an illegal government since March 21. He never sought an extension…and we [PPP] do not intend to extend the life of the government,” he said. He continued, “There has been no extension of the life of the government since March 21 so if they’re claiming that September 18th is not the drop-dead day…then it has to be March 21 because there has been no extension of the life of the government,” Jagdeo said.

Further, Jagdeo said that all actions which were undertaken by the government since March 21 are null and void.

“We have a longer period backwards to review all of their acts,” he added.

He noted, however, that Article 106 (7) also makes provision for President David Granger remaining as Head of State. He said this provision has been a “saving grace” for the president but maintained that the government is an illegal one.

“We only have to deal with him because we need someone who has the constitutional authority to move things forward,” Jagdeo said. “This decision [Chief Justice’s ruling], rather than spin it in their favour they should hang their heads. It’s a good day for Guyana; it’s a good day for people who believe in the rule of law and constitutional rule.”

Jagdeo did not indicate at yesterday’s press conference what his party’s next move will be.

GECOM is expected to have its first full meeting today under its new Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh. Jagdeo is calling on the commission to act following the Chief Justice’s ruling.


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