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Parliament should approve funds for GECOM’s running of elections- House Speaker

House Speaker Raphael Trotman

President Donald Ramotar’s decision not to dissolve Parliament at the same time he announced a date for General and Regional Elections on Tuesday raised questions about whether the suspension oflaw-making body would first have to be lifted to approve money for financing the poll.

But a top government official told Caribbean News Desk that “there is no need to go back to Parliament” for approval of funds. “ One suggestion that has been previously made is that government would have to take the money from the Contingency Fund rather than the Consolidated Fund.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall confirmed that parliament remains prorogued as of November 10, 2014 and could be reconvened at any time. He did not rule out Parliament being reconvened before the May 11, 2015 polls. “Parliament is capable of being activated into session until it is dissolved,” he said. Asked whether he knew why Parliament might be recalled, he said “I know of no reason.”

The Constitution provides for the dissolution of Parliament three months before an election which suggests that President Ramotar would have to issue the proclamation by February 11, 2015.

A senior official of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) estimates that about GUY$2 billion are usually required to run off general and regional elections. The official said that the elections management agency expects the “powers that be” to provide the cash for holding the elections.

“GECOM is a budget agency and that means that we are never given money in lump sum so the answer must be no,” when asked if GECOM has the money to finance the polls across this 83,000 square mile country. “I can safely say that GECOM is not worried about funds to conduct elections.”

House Speaker, Raphael Trotman strongly believed that the law-making body rather than the Executive should approve the amount required for the poll set for May 11, 2015. “Parliament may very well be needed and some concession may have to be found because if we all want an election we are going to have to finance it and the last thing I think we would want to see is government spending monies without approval,” he said.

Reacting to suggestion that government might finance GECOM’s election expenditures from the Contingency Fund, he said that would not be the best approach. “They may want to do that but because you are dealing with a matter that pertains to democracy, I think it would be a dangerous thing for them to do because it is almost as if they are financing an election.

“It should be Parliament that approves money for the election because it’s a very important feature of our democracy and therefore one party that is going to be a competitor in those elections shouldn’t have the say in terms of how much, how it is disbursed,”  said Trotman.

Apparently referring to mounting international pressure for the parliamentary suspension to be lifted or for elections to be called, the Speaker reasoned that the President merely announced a date as a form of appeasement. “The naming of the outside date of the 11th of May is just the opening or releasing of a safety valve to let some pressure out and to let some pressure off because one would have thought that the dissolution of Parliament would have necessarily followed the naming of an election date,” he said.

Trotman disagreed with any attempt by the incumbent administration to sign agreements by using the opportunity of the still suspended Parliament.  “I believe now that the government assumes a caretaker role only. Once elections have been named, you become a caretaker government- that is just to manage, hold the reins of State until the new government is elected,” he said.

The Attorney General said that the Constitution does not require the President to dissolve the law-making body first before naming a poll date. “There is a view out there that once a date for election is named, that it either automatically means that the Parliament is dissolved or that Parliament must be dissolved simultaneously. There is no such obligation on the President. They are two separate acts and he has decided on this occasion to perform them separately,” he said.

Asked what was the legal provision for the President to do so separately, he said “there is nothing that says he must do it separately” or together. “There is no legal compulsion or obligation for the President, at the time when he names the date for election, to dissolve Parliament,” he said.

Nandlall said he did not know of any specific reason for not dissolving Parliament but confirmed that the prorogation since November 10, 2014 remained in effect and could be lifted at any time. Asked what motivated the decision not to dissolve the Parliament, the Attorney General argued that that was the President’s prerogative.

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In this edition…

Controversy surrounding the state of Guyana’s Parliament although an election date has been announced

Will the election date impact on CXC Exams in Guyana?

Jamaica’s government gives the opposition until April to make up its mind about supporting the Caribbean Court of Justice

 Top American government officials arrive in Cuba for talks on immigration and diplomacy

And Montserrat’s Speaker does not support going back to the constituency voting system