Gov’t must remain in office
–proposes house-to-house registration, upholding of decisions taken by Patterson
–wants House to meet to extend period for holding of elections
AHEAD of today’s court hearing to determine the consequential orders following the upholding of the no-confidence motion, the Government of Guyana, through Attorney-General Basil Williams has proposed that it remains in office until a President is sworn in after elections are held, and insists that house-to- house registration must be used to determine the list of eligible voters for any future polls.
The administration has also proposed that decisions taken by former chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice James Patterson be upheld, thereby invoking the de facto doctrine that efforts be made to swiftly appoint a new chairman.
The proposal, which clearly contrasts with what the Opposition has put forward, was dispatched to lawyer for Leader of the Opposition, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendez by Williams SC on Sunday.
During last week’s ruling on the no-confidence motion and the appointment of the chairman of GECOM, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders had urged the parties to meet and find consensus regarding the consequential orders to be handed down today at 14:00hrs. The Opposition has proposed the immediate resignation of the government; the holding of elections in three months; and the utilisation of a claims and objections exercise to finalise the voters’ list.
The Government, in its proposal, has acknowledged that the Motion of No-Confidence debated in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018 was validly passed in accordance with Article 106 of the Constitution.
However, it has stated that “The Government, including the President, Prime Minister, Ministers and Cabinet shall remain in office until a President is sworn in after elections have been held.”
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.”
Additionally, the Government is proposing that it be ordered that the National Assembly convene to have a resolution passed in order that the time be extended for the holding of an election within the earliest time as indicated after the President has consulted with GECOM.
The government has also proposed that if for any reason, the National Assembly does not pass the Resolution, or the Resolution does not garner the requisite majority for an extension, the President, after consultation with the Elections Commission, shall dissolve the National Assembly, and General and Regional Elections shall be held on a date to be fixed by the President under Articles 70(2) and 61 respectively.
On the contentious issue of new registration, the Government has outlined in its proposal that the registration of persons for the purpose of ascertaining who is qualified to be an elector is by ‘house-to- house visits’, as provided for under Section 3(1) of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act of 2000.
“General and Regional Elections shall be held on the National Register of Registrants/Central Register under the National Registration Act, which Register is to be prepared by ‘house-to-house visits’ pursuant to Sections 2 and 3 of the National Registration Act as amended by the National Registration (Amendment) Act No. 31 of 2007,” the government asserted.
On the issue of the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, the government has asserted that account must be taken of the de facto doctrine that all acts done by the chairman while he purported to perform the duties of chairman shall be declared valid.
Additionally, it has proposed that “before the list is formally handed over to the President in order to facilitate the appointment of a chairman of the Elections Commission, the President and the Leader of the Opposition shall communicate with each other, in good faith, not excluding meeting face-to-face, with a view to agreeing to a list of six persons who meet the eligibility criteria, not unacceptable to the President, from which the President shall select a Chairman of the GECOM in accordance with the Constitution as expeditiously as possible.”
Following last week’s ruling, President David Granger, in an address to the nation, said the December 21, 2018 vote and the independent legal processes in the courts that followed it, have been of utmost importance to him and the Government.
“We respect the legal process, and the decision of Caribbean Court of Justice, as well as the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. We did not believe that the no-confidence vote was valid, and neither did we believe it reflected the will of Parliament or the Guyanese people. We will, however, accept and abide by the Court’s decision.”
He said it is now clear that the Guyanese people need certainty about the future and a way forward.
“I want to outline a clear path. It is essential that we hold fair, free and credible elections. We cannot proceed on the current list of voters; it is outdated and corrupted. It may hold as many as 200,000 incorrect entries. What’s more, those who have reached the age of 18 years since the last election are not on it,” President Granger said.
ALL MUST VOTE
According to the President, the Constitution entitles all citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote.
“It is a democratic imperative that house-to-house registration be completed swiftly, so we can have an election at the earliest opportunity. The chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice Patterson, has previously informed me that the Commission will be ready to hold elections in November 2019. This will be after the completion of house-to-house registration. I now await a recommendation for a specific date from GECOM, and I will then issue a proclamation,” President Granger said, adding:
“Guyana, since my election in 2015, has been moving in the right direction after 23 years of stagnation under successive PPP administrations. Significant progress has been made. But real change is neither quick nor easy to come by. There is still a lot more to do.”
He said he would devote his time serve all citizens. “I will devote all my energies, until the forthcoming election, to serve our people and our country, and deliver good governance. Guyanese can confidently expect to live in a country that is moving forward; with communities that are safer; in a society that is more cohesive; with better infrastructure, greater access to quality education and an economy that is more resilient; providing better jobs,” the President said.
Noting that his administration is on the right path, the Guyanese leader said, “When the election comes, I urge all our people, of whatever background, to support me and the APNU+AFC coalition to give us the opportunity to secure the best future for Guyana. I call on all Guyanese to remain calm, and I assure you that the Government will abide by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.”