…extending time in office will have consequences – Bharrat Jagdeo
The international diplomatic community is growing increasingly wary over the machinations of President David Granger with regard to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and should he be moving to have a repeat of the 1990 experience – when then President Desmond Hoyte had his term in office extended by two years – he will have to face a non-compliant opposition – a situation that could plunge Guyana into a constitutional crisis.
This is according to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who on Tuesday raised the issue of a possible ulterior motive on the part of the President and sought to qualify his position by pointing to the seemingly ever-expanding criteria.
agdeo was at the time speaking to members of the media at his Church Street, Georgetown office, where he provided an update on the meetings he held with civil society on Monday last over the submission of a third list of nominees for the post of Chairman of GECOM.
Jagdeo also used the opportunity to respond to sentiments expressed by President Granger during his most recent pre-packaged television programme, “The Public Interest” which he dismissed as disingenuous.
He told members of the media, “We will never in that sort of atmosphere (outlined by President Granger) be able to have a person selected.”
Jagdeo was reporting on sections of civil society’s lamenting over the requirement to have all six names on any list submitted to be perfect before any of the names are even considered.
“Listen to how unreasonable this is…if you have five persons on the list perfect according to his criteria and one person is not, then he will not even start considering the names,” Jagdeo said.
According to the Opposition Leader, the strong-arm position adopted by the President flies not only in the face of the Constitution, but it also flies in the face of history and precedence which has been accepted in the past by both the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Jagdeo suggested he was now of the opinion, as was the case with many that he would have consulted with, that President Granger may very well have an ulterior motive. “I believe that he has an ulterior motive.”
The Opposition Leader suggested that by delaying the appointment of a GECOM Chairperson, the President may want to believe that this situation could lead to the delay of the next General and Regional Elections.
He recalled a similar experience in 1990, when the PNC’s term in office was extended by two years.
According to Jagdeo, this situation obtained since it was agreed to by the PPP/C, along with the Carter Centre to have the elections delayed in order to sanitise the voters list to remove any doubt over the rigging that had obtained in the years leading up to that election by the then PNC Government.
“If he thinks that situation will repeat itself, he is engaged in wishful thinking … if he will delay appointment just to get additional years (in office) he is wrong…. he is not going to find a compliant PPP agreeing to an extending of his term.”
Jagdeo warned that such a situation would lead to a constitutional crisis since the life of Parliament would have to be dissolved on a predetermined date according to the Guyana Constitution.
He said should there be no election called at this time, the country would be plunged into a constitutional crisis, since there could be no Budget and further, any agreement inked at that time would be illegal and not recognised on his part.
“If he thinks, as some people feel, that this is a plot to delay the elections, then there are consequences,” the Opposition Leader warned.
On the matter of his meetings with members of the international diplomatic community, the Opposition Leader said the signals emanating from the Granger Government were sending worrying signals.
“I had discussions with people from the diplomatic community, because of the behaviour of the President on this manner where he is departing so radically and departing from precedence over the years…He (Granger) is raising a lot of concerns internationally about the elections,” Jagdeo said.
He told members of the media, “we have started doing work internationally to ensure that the election is free and fair …. people see this in the international community as a strategy”, on the part of the Granger Government.
Meanwhile, on his consultation with members of civil society, he reported that the persons who participated in the meetings expressed frustration over the protracted delays and shifting goal-posts on the part of the Executive.
“Civil society share same frustration on this matter…many felt the President’s position is unreasonable.”
According to Jagdeo, the members of civil society expressed the view, “we will never have agreement if he continues to hold to the views that he has publicly expressed and many of them think it’s a waste of time to continue what seems to be a charade of sending names to him when he would capriciously, flippantly dismiss names as not being fit and proper.”
Jagdeo reported too that the protracted delay has now led to a waning in enthusiasm of civil society to participate in these activities, since “their views are not going to be taken seriously by Government”.
Jagdeo told media operatives, “they and I recognise that it is going to be increasingly hard to find people who would want to put up their names only to put down nationally, publicly by the President.” He did report that among the groups noticeably absent from the consultations was the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), which had complained about being sidelined at the first engagement, but was since invited.