“…we deeply regret that, by surpassing September 18, the Government is currently in breach of the Constitution following its failure to adhere to the decisions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on 18 June and its subsequent orders,” they said in a joint statement issued by US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn and the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Ambassador Fernando Ponz Cantó.
President Granger has responded by making it clear that he will rely on the advice of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on its readiness to hold new General and Regional Elections.
President Granger reminded the foreign diplomats of the country’s constitutional guidelines which prevented him from naming a date without GECOM’s input. “The government is abiding by the Constitution in the sense that it has allowed the elections commission – an autonomous agency – to do its work,” he said.
“But, the Constitution is very clear on functions of the commission. I would be in more breach of the Constitution if I tried to intrude or interfere with the work of the commission. So, I’ll advise the foreign delegations or foreign missions to allow the Government of Guyana to resolve the issues. I have heard from the Chairman of the Commission and I’m very confident that the Chairman, a very prudent and sober retired judge, will recommend to me a date which the Guyanese people are prepared to accept.”
He stressed that GECOM is independent of the executive and the judiciary. He reiterated that he must be advised of GECOM’s readiness to conduct an election or “it would be reckless of me” to do otherwise.
“It is impossible for the Executive to run the election. I will not allow the Executive to intrude. I will not print ballot papers, I will not train returning officers, I will not detail polling stations. This is the job of an agency. Let the agency do its work,” he said.
The statement has caused the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) to caution the diplomats on their misinformation of the orders handed down by the CCJ and the subsequent actions of the government. After being sworn in as GECOM Chair on July 29, 2019, (Ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh took up office in keeping with another one of the CCJ’s June 18, 2018 ruling that the previous chair’s appointment was flawed.
Since then, the seven-member commission has met every week to deliberate on and iron out a timeframe for which credible elections can be held in light of a validly-passed no-confidence motion against the current government. The commissioners, who are split on how soon elections could be held and what means should be used to sanitise the voters’ list, saw their discussions come to an end when Singh communicated to the President, on Thursday, that credible elections could be facilitated by late February 2020.
The GTUC statement expressed concern about the “out of order statement” issued by the diplomats which it said was “erroneous” in advising Guyanese that the Constitution has been breached.
Elaborating, the GTUC reminded that even the CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, had “declined” the request to set a date by which elections must be held and that the Constitution does not give the President the power to do so without GECOM. “This view [expressed by the diplomats] is not only unfortunate but erroneous, risking the consequence of impugning the erstwhile reputation of the CCJ and the esteemed Justices who presided over the case. This is treading dangerous waters,” the GTUC stated.
“President David Granger cannot issue a date for election outside of the National Assembly granting the authority to do so since the three months period has lapsed. Where the Guyana Elections Commission has today announced its timeline as to its readiness for General and Regional Elections, Government and Opposition must commence engagement not only on an election date but matters of day-to-day governance…what we reject, in the strongest possible term, is support for violating the Constitution and Laws of Guyana and disrespecting the independence and rulings of our judicature. We expect the representative of these countries – notwithstanding their current internal political turmoil – to also respect us – notwithstanding ours – to seek orderly and lawful means in resolving differences. Likewise, as citizens of their countries expect no less Guyanese are no less deserving.”
The union highlighted the fact that the Constitution also states that Leader of the Opposition, who forms part of the Executive, also takes on the “interim” or “caretaker” status of the government and two should therefore seek out engagement on a mutual way forward. Meanwhile, with all due respect, the GTUC invited the foreign diplomats to carefully engage in an “objective re-reading” of the country’s laws and the CCJ’s ruling.
The following is the full text of the joint statement issued by US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Greg Quinn and the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Ambassador Fernando Ponz Cantó:
The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union thank the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for devising a proposed elections timeframe for conducting General and Regional Elections.
However, we deeply regret that, by surpassing September 18, the Government is currently in breach of the Constitution following its failure to adhere to the decisions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on 18 June and its subsequent orders.
This situation comes at great cost to the people of Guyana. The prevailing political uncertainty undermines Guyanese institutions, compromises economic opportunities and delays development across all areas including infrastructure, education, health, and social services. It also hinders our ability to support Guyana’s development needs.
We therefore call upon the President to set an elections date immediately in full compliance with Guyana’s constitution.
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