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Civil Society Forum urges Jagdeo find compromise with Granger on general elections

The Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Upper Church Street, Queenstown, Georgetown.

A broad-based Civil Society Forum on Thursday urged Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to seek a meeting with the Guyanese leader to end the almost two-month-old stalemate over the holding of general elections.

“The Forum’s position is that there should be some level of compromise and so while the Forum would like to see compliance with the constitution, the Forum is open and urged the Opposition Leader to meet with the President and come to some kind of reasonable compromise within the extension that GECOM had actually said that they could be ready for a July elections,” Captain Gerry Gouveia, who is representing the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on the Forum, told Demerara Waves Online News.

The Guyana Elections Commission, the opposition and the government are at odds over whether general elections could be held in 90 days – by March 19 or 20 – as a result of the National Assembly’s passage of the no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018.

Gouveia said during a two-hour meeting with the Opposition Leader, Jagdeo was urged to meet Granger to find common ground in the interest of Guyana. “We urged him to seek another meeting with President Granger so that together they could hopefully come to a position that would be in the national interest to get past and fulfill the constitutional provision that is now demanded,” he disclosed.

At a news conference held Thursday, Jagdeo ruled out asking Granger for a meeting and said if the President wants to hold discussions it would depend on the agenda. Though Jagdeo insisted on elections by March 19, at the Civil Society Forum, Gouveia said he appeared poised to strike a compromise for elections to be held in July based on a claims and objections period for the voters’ list which would expire on April 30, 2019 and which would have to be used as a preliminary voters list for the claims and objections.

Asked how the civil society intended to broker a solution when the opposition and governing coalition as well as their election commissioners are at odds over whether a new list should be generated by house-to-house registration or the existing list should be refreshed by claims and objections, Gouveia said the Forum has not yet outlined its position on these issues. The Forum is expected to meet Friday to hammer out a consensus position on whether elections should be held with the current voters’ list or there should be house-to-house registration.

Gouveia said his Private Sector Commission was unable to meet the GECOM Chairman, James Patterson, who cancelled three scheduled meetings so far with the elections management body. The city businessman said the Forum’s now two-week old request for a meeting with President Granger was not even acknowledged.

The Civil Society Forum says it is a group of non-state actors in Guyana organized, independent of any political policy, programme or identity, under Article 13 of the Constitution, to engage with the State, the Parliamentary Opposition and other like organizations on matters of the governance of the State.

The Forum says its principles are respect for the constitution, judiciary and human rights as well as responsibility of citizens and responsibility to future generations. “It is the purpose of the Forum to identify the current critical issues of the day and to address them through its representatives to the government and the political opposition on all matters directly affecting their civil, economic and political well-being and to take whatever action considered to be appropriate and democratic in this regard,’ the grouping said.

The members are the the Anglican Church, Guyana Human Rights Association, Movement Against Parking Meters, Inter-Religious Organization, Guyana Presbyterian Church, Roman Catholic Church, Transparency Institute of Guyana IncorporatedGuyana Rastafarian Community, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ UnionGuyana Trades Union Congress, Private Sector Commission, Red Thread, and RISE Guyana.