- ― second talks held with Pres. Granger and Leader of the Opposition
- ― president assures govt working to ensure credible elections in shortest possible time
- ― “There is no crisis. There are issues which have to be resolved and most of those issues will depend on what I hear from GECOM when I consult them”
- ― “the president or the executive or any other body cannot intervene, cannot intrude, cannot interfere with the work of GECOM so we must allow GECOM to do its work”
- ― president to meet with GECOM commissioners
President David Granger today assured citizens that there is no crisis and the APNU+AFC Government is working to ensure that credible elections are held at the shortest possible time.
The president met with Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo earlier today, to chart the way forward for elections to be held in keeping with the constitutional requirement following the December 21, 2018 vote of the National Assembly.
“The people of Guyana could be assured that we are working to ensure that credible elections are held in a short a time as possible. There is no crisis. There are issues which have to be resolved and most of those issues will depend on what I hear from GECOM when I consult them,” the Head of State said.
According to President Granger, the meeting with the Leader of the Opposition was a positive one.
“It was very useful and very fruitful both sides are working towards the solution of the issues which now confront us. I think we had a very positive approach.”
In addition, the Head of State highlighted that there are four stages involved in moving the process forward. He also reiterated that the General Elections Commission (GECOM) remains the constitutional agency which has the responsibility of determining its readiness for the hosting of credible General and Regional Elections.
“There are four processes taking place. One is the importance of the National Assembly; Second is the judicial process; Third is the executive process and Fourth is GECOM. The meeting this morning focused largely on the role of GECOM because it is only GECOM as an independent agency which could determine when elections could be held. The president or the executive or any other body cannot intervene, cannot intrude, cannot interfere with the work of GECOM so we have to allow GECOM to do its work,” President Granger said.
The Head of State and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo met at 11:00hours today for a second high-level meeting.
This follows President Granger’s invitation to the opposition leader to meet and discuss the National Assembly’s constitutional role in the present situation and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM’s) readiness and the requirement for funding to enable it to conduct General and Regional Elections.
However, after initially indicating his unwillingness to meet with the president citing various reasons, the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo on the evening of March 5, made an “about-face” and agreed to today’s meeting.
Failing to get the government’s commitment to a date before the current list of electors expires on April 30, the leader of the opposition refused to discuss any other matter on the agenda for today’s meeting. The president has since committed to meeting with the GECOM commissioners with a view to determining the commission’s readiness and way forward.
“In that regard, the leader of the opposition was insistent that a date be set, and he is in all fairness prepared to vary the date based on a vote of the National Assembly. I, on February 25, wrote the chairman of GECOM indicating that I am prepared to enter consultations with him to ensure that credible elections are held in a short a time as possible and I would like to meet him again. In fact, I would like to meet the entire commission to determine what their needs are in terms of time and money, so the door is open. The leader of the opposition has agreed to meet again.”
Today’s discussion followed a previous meeting held on January 9 at the Ministry of the Presidency.
The January 9 meeting
On January 9, 2019, the government met with the opposition to discuss the way forward following the December 21 vote and what is stipulated according to the constitution. The Head of State led a delegation that included Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams SC., Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman and Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally.
The group led by the opposition leader comprised opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, and Members of Parliament Anil Nandlall, Irfaan Ali, Bishop Juan Edghill, Dr. Frank Anthony, Pauline Sukhai and Odinga Lumumba.
During that meeting, the delegations discussed an agenda proposed by the president that included –
- Constitutional and Legal situation:
- – Functioning of the National Assembly;
- – Functioning of the Government;
- – Public Services;
- – Public Order;
- – Dissolution of Parliament.
- General and Regional Elections:
- – Role of the National Assembly;
- – Operational readiness of GECOM;
- – National registration;
- – Public Information.
The importance of continuous engagements between the Government and Opposition, the importance they hold for the national interest and the elevated public expectation, was acknowledged by both delegations.
The opposition leader reiterated his position that the “no-confidence motion” was validly passed and therefore there must be compliance with Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution.
He further stated that the time-frames prescribed by the two provisions of the constitution must be rigidly observed, notwithstanding the pendency of the legal proceedings filed; and that Parliament must be dissolved unless otherwise agreed upon in accordance with Article 106 (7) of the Constitution.
Further, the opposition leader contended that while the government remains in office in accordance with Articles 106 (7) of the Constitution, its functions must be confined to the provision of essential services of the State and matters concerning preparation for General and Regional Elections.
In addition, the Leader of the Opposition emphasised that the National Assembly should only meet to deal with issues connected with the provision of essential services by the State and all matters related to the preparation of General and Regional elections.
The president underscored that the government is legal and that it must govern without any limitations on its authority. His Excellency further stated that there is no provision in the Constitution which imposes a limitation on the government to perform its lawful functions.
President Granger indicated that the government and the opposition, by agreement in the National Assembly, can lengthen the time beyond the 90 days contemplated by Article 106 (7) of the Constitution.
He further stated that it is lawful for the government to engage the court, to bring clarity to the provisions of Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) of the Constitution. Pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings, Parliament remains functional.
The January 9 meeting also saw the two sides committing to work towards the expeditious conclusion of the matters engaging the attention of the court.
The parties identified the Chief Whips; Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally and Opposition Member of Parliament, Gail Teixeira, to inquire the readiness of GECOM.
Both sides also expressed their willingness to meet to ensure the management of the various issues facing the nation.
Today’s discussion, as well as the first meeting held in January, is all connected to GECOM’s timeline to host General and Regional Elections.
In the meantime, the constitutionality of the December 21 vote is currently being challenged at the Court of Appeal, by the APNU+AFC administration and other interested parties.
Kidackie Amsterdam. DPI