Carter Center interested in ‘credible elections’
-AG says after meeting with team
September 12 2019
Attorney General Basil Williams SC (left) with members of the Carter Center delegation.
Six months after its last visit, the Carter Center has returned to Guyana with a four-member delegation, hoping to gain insight into the country’s current political situation.
Led by Associate Director Brett Lacy, who was here with another team in March, the delegation has met with Attorney General Basil Williams and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo as part of planned meetings “with the different actors.”
“We [are] here from the Carter Center and we are happy to have the opportunity to meet with the Attorney General; to hear from him about the laws of Guyana and his various arguments relating to the current circumstances in Guyana so we are happy to have this opportunity to hear from him, from his perspective,” Lacy told reporters following yesterday’s two-hour long meeting with Williams.
“I can say that from the Carter Center, we are really just here to listen and are hoping to meet with different actors to understand everyone’s perspectives on current events here in Guyana,” she added.
Jagdeo would only confirm that he met with the team on Tuesday. When contacted, he told Stabroek News that he did not want to “go into any detail” of the meeting.
Meantime, Williams said that he could not speak for the Carter Center representatives but informed that they requested yesterday’s meeting to discuss the current political situation. He indicated that they wanted to meet him again after they have wrapped up meetings with others. “I think the Carter Center has always been, and are interested in, [that] the rule of law prevails and that the way we are situated now, we take advantage of our situation and enable all the people of the country to benefit from it,” Williams said.
“And of course, one of the things that would be vital for that is the question of distributing the wealth. In fact, it is an overarching consideration. Many countries, some in the Congo as they mentioned, have the wealth but it doesn’t go to the people,” he added. He said that he assured them that he believes that “President David Arthur Granger and Sandra Granger, they are people who are very capable of ensuring that the wealth is distributed in accordance with a good life for every Guyanese.”
He said too that the Carter Center is “obviously interested in elections and obviously interested in credible elections.” He gave them government’s position. “I said that to them that the government has absolutely nothing to do with the conduct of elections or the conduct of registration. It is entirely the remit of GECOM and as the president has repeatedly said, he wants early elections and as soon as GECOM announces its readiness, he will announce a date.”
Williams said that he was pleased to address the Carter Center team on a number of matters and one of the positions was that government was awaiting an appeal on a part of the ruling by Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire in the legality of the house-to-house (HtH) registration matter.
In addition, he said, he informed that government was “waiting on GECOM, to announce the elections date, dissolve parliament and move to the elections.”
Williams had “partially appealed” the August 14th ruling by the acting Chief Justice which upheld the legality of the HtH registration exercise but also declared that existing registrants cannot be excised from a new voters’ list unless they are deceased or otherwise disqualified under Article 159 (2), (3) or (4).
The Attorney General, in his submission, has provided 16 points of appeal including the argument that Section 6 of the Registration Act provides for “residency” during the period of a qualifying date as a requirement for registration.
Sometime today or tomorrow, according to Williams, government will seek a stay on the CJ ruling.
Asked about the possible implications to the work of GECOM if the stay is granted, Williams said, “If GECOM said they were forced to merge because they were following the actions of the Chief Justice, I suppose if the court stays it, they will have to follow it. I mean, the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) said it won’t give directions to GECOM so we would hope good sense prevail. We want the matter to be heard by the full court, the Court of Appeal, quickly.”
He said that he also discussed with the Carter Center team, government’s concern that with GECOM merging the persons recently registered during the HtH registration process and the old list, it could mean that persons overseas would still have their names on the voters’ list and that was something they had objected to.
Discussions, according to Williams, were had on previous works of the Carter Center here, dating back to 1991 and their visit earlier this year.
Last March, a Carter Center team, comprising Jason Carter, who is the grandson of former US President Jimmy Carter, David Carroll and Lacy, had proposed that General and Regional Elections could be held in August, provided that regulations, which are part of the National Registration Act, were used in lieu of HtH registration to cleanse the list of electors of non-resident Guyanese.
“I think ultimately our role here of course is limited. We’re not Guyanese [but] we care about this country. The Carter Center has been here for many, many years, almost 30 years. This country is important to my grandfather. It’s important to me and my family as well but ultimately the issues that are being confronted right now [are] going to require the cooperation of political leadership of this country and we are optimistic, and we have had a very productive meeting with GECOM,” Carter said before leaving.
Government-nominated commissioner Vincent Alexander had told reporters after that meeting about the issue of non-residents being taken off the list.
“What has surfaced is the National Registration Act which provides for people who are non-resident to be taken off of the list… I’m not unprepared to explore the possibility of using the law that already exists but would need some regulations for it to be operationalised,” he had said.
Since that time, there has been just over a month of HtH registration and GECOM is merging the data collected from the process with the National Register of Registrants.
The GECOM Secretariat has also proposed March 2020 as the earliest date for elections.
As described on its website, the Atlanta, Georgia, US-based Carter Center, “in partnership with Emory University, is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health”.