Head of the nation’s COVID-19 Taskforce and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has advised the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that the national recount exercise should end at 5pm daily. However, this advisory has come in for some strong criticism from the PPP/C which reminded that tens of thousands of persons, classified as “essential workers” are permitted to work after the 6pm curfew.
Under the revised gazetted COVID-19 measures, essential services may carry on operations for 24 hours. The PPP/C insists that Nagamootoo’s directive is “simply nonsensical.”
To support its stance, the party said, “Tens of thousands of persons throughout the country are permitted to work after 6:00 pm. This recount is arguably the most important exercise in this country and therefore, its speedy conclusion must be accorded every priority. There is simply no sensible reason why the exercise should not proceed beyond 5:00 pm daily.”
Further, the Prime Minister has also advised that those desirous of coming to Guyana to observe the recount must be quarantined for two weeks. This, the PPP/C, stressed is “even more preposterous.” The party’s position is that once someone tests negative for COVID-19, there is absolutely no need for them to be placed in quarantine.
Against this backdrop, the party said it is calling on the Chairperson of GECOM, retired Judge Claudette Singh to immediately reject these outrageous directives by Nagamootoo and to proceed to make arrangements for the recount to be done speedily.
As for PPP/C aligned lawyer and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, he believes that Justice Singh fell into grave error when she wrote to the COVID-19 Taskforce seeking guidance in relation to the conduct of the recount exercise. According to him, Justice Singh should have been the one informing the Taskforce of her plans in that regard.
Nandlall said that time and time again, incumbent President David Granger has reminded that GECOM is an independent, functionally autonomous constitutional body, with exclusive authority over the conduct of all aspects of elections. This, he added, means that no other person or organization in this land has any role to play whatsoever, in relation to any aspect of the electoral process, unless GECOM permits it.
For example, Nandlall pointed out that the Judiciary is an institution that enjoys similar juridical corpus as GECOM, and in recognition of this legal reality, the Judiciary has crafted its own COVID-19 protocols. He further added, it is in this same jurisprudential vein, that the Court of Appeal, recently, ruled that the High-Level CARICOM Team cannot supervise the recount, since to do so, would be to usurp the functions, as well as, subvert the independence of GECOM.
In light of the foregoing, Nandlall pointed out that there is absolutely, no obligation on GECOM to seek approval from the COVID-19 Taskforce, in relation to the discharge of its functions regarding elections.
“I am not unmindful of public health environment. However, GECOM must establish its own protocols, like the Judiciary. In so doing, it must be guided by the overriding principle that the recount must be concluded with every convenient speed. The persons travelling to Guyana for the recount can be tested in their home countries and tested upon arrival in Guyana.”