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Guyana Bar Association worried that vote recount time will clash with Constitution

The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) on Thursday cautioned that a national recount of votes in last month’s general and regional elections will collide with the Constitution because Parliament should meet no later than April 30, 2020.

The GBA warned that as of Thursday, 14 days were “left before Guyana delves further into the constitutional abyss to which the country was pushed by GECOM on March 21, 2019 when it failed to hold General and Regional Elections within the constitutionally mandated period on the valid passing of the ‘No Confidence Motion’ on December 21, 2018.”

GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh is Friday expected to decide on whether the recount would take a minimum of 32 days or a maximum of 64 days.

The association called on the election management agency to conduct the recount “in the shortest possible time” because Article 69 of Guyana’s Constitution says that Parliament must commence no later than four months from the end of the last session, in this case December 30, 2019.

“It is in pursuance thereto, that the Bar Council of The Bar Association of Guyana calls on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) inclusive of its Secretariat to do all acts and things necessary in the shortest possible time to ensure the accurate, credible and transparent declaration of the results of the General and Regional Elections held on March 2, 2020 so that the next session of Parliament can commence as constitutionally prescribed, that is, no later than April 30, 2020,” the associations states.

Singh on Wednesday, however, said she did not envisage a constitutional problem. “Of course it would. Once it starts, it would be finished,” she said, adding that she did not expect a constitutional logjam if the recount is not completed by April 30. “I do not envisage that at all,” Singh said.

The Bar Association said compliance with the Constitution for Parliament to be summoned by the “mandated timeline” would depend on GECOM and its Secretariat acting “immediately in a manner evincing transparency, impartiality and fairness.”

“Time is of the essence. The Constitution of Guyana is the supreme law of Guyana to which all persons and bodies are subject. Timelines laid down by the constitution are not merely matters of principle which one can simply choose to abide by or ignore. The failure to abide by the constitution has far reaching consequences, both nationally and internationally, inter alia for good governance and the rule of law,” the GBA said.

The association notes that before Parliament was dissolved on December 30, 2019, the National Assembly, which comprises Parliament, last sat on May 23, 2019 — 11 months ago. “Soon, it will be one year since the last sitting of Parliament. Such a record is not one for which any country would wish to be known.,” the association said.

The Bar Association, noting that Guyana is a parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law, contended that the absence of parliamentary oversight of those who purport to exercise executive powers, whether de facto or de jure, is of grave concern as it places the rule of law under siege.

The Bar Council said it was deeply concerned by what appears to be a laissez-faire approach taken by GECOM and its Secretariat and slammed the election management agency for the “disgraceful and inexcusable” six-week long wait for General and Regional Election results.

The Bar Council urged GECOM and its Secretariat to put aside the imbroglio of the last six weeks by ending the impasse over results, with a declaration that permits the Constitution to be honoured and provides the people of Guyana with a freely and fairly elected Government.