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International pressure mounts on Guyana over no-confidence motion

A day after the Guyana Government deemed the United Nations (UN) position on the no-confidence motion “premature”, the European Union on Monday called for the swift filing and hearing of an appeal to the High Court’s decision that the motion was validly passed.

“The Delegation of the European Union welcomes the expeditious handling of the related court cases so far and hopes that the further legal process can be expedited, for the benefit of Guyana, its people and its development, in view of pending Foreign Direct Investments [FDIs],” the diplomatic mission here said in a statement.

Attorney General Basil Williams has already indicated that government would appeal Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s ruling after her written decisions are made available by Wednesday.

Chief Justice George-Wiltshire found that the no-confidence motion was validly passed by an absolute majority of 33 to 32 in the 65-seat National Assembly although then government parliamentarian, Charrandas Persaud is a Guyanese-Canadian and ought not to have been a candidate or lawmaker because dual citizens are constitutionally barred from doing so.

The Court notes that even if a parliamentarian ought not to have been a member, that does not invalidate the proceedings. The Chief Justice also ruled that the President and Cabinet should have resigned immediately after the motion had been passed and only remain in office until after the general elections are held and a new President is sworn in.

The European Union said it “looks forward to free and fair elections being held, as appropriate, and in line with all constitutional provisions.”

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is Tuesday expected to meet to consider a number of optional timelines with the earliest one being July 2019. The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) continues to insist that the polls be held by March 19, 2019 – within the constitutionally-mandated 90 days of the December 21 passage of the no-confidence motion.

Saying that it was following “closely” the developments after the no-confidence vote in the National Assembly the European Union called “on all concerned bodies and stakeholders to uphold the Constitution, respecting democratic procedures and the rule of law.

At a time when government and the opposition as well as their elections commissioners continue to haggle over whether the elections should be held with the existing voters’ list that expires on April 30, 2019 or make way for house-to-house registration that could take as much as six months, the EU said “procedures should be managed efficiently, with openness and transparency.”

Earlier, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana Mikiko Tanaka had called on the Granger-led administration to respect Guyana’s constitution and the Court’s decision. “The delivery of the decisions by the Chief Justice demonstrates the independence and integrity of the Judiciary in protecting the Constitution and upholding the rule of law. The Honourable Speaker’s earlier validation of the process of the controversial voting at the National Assembly was testimony of the integrity of the legislative arm of the State.” “It is hoped that the third arm of the State, the Executive, will demonstrate its integrity and respect for Guyana’s Constitution and the Judiciary that constitute the foundation for the rule of law,” Tanaka said last week.

However, General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon deemed “premature” Tanaka’s call for the government to respect the High Court’s decision. “I thought that was a premature statement unless there is some evidence of it.” Asked whether he believed Tanaka’s comments amounted to meddling in Guyana’s internal affairs, Harmon added that, “I wouldn’t take it that far but I would say that it’s a statement I believe has no basis right now because as a government we have always respected the constitution, we have always respected the law and so there is no need for a warning at this point in time as far as I’m concerned,” he said Sunday.