Last Updated on Saturday, 23 March 2019, 16:56 by Denis Chabrol
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo Friday night appeared to tone down calls for President David Granger to announce an early election date after Guyana’s Court of Appeal ruled that the no-confidence motion was not validly passed.
He, however, said his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would continue to demand that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) be in a state of readiness for early polls because the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) could soon decide whether Friday’s decision by the Appeal Court that last December’s no-confidence motion needed 34 instead of 33 votes was valid.
“We will continue to argue for GECOM to be prepared for early elections because there is a great possibility that this adverse ruling could be overturned at the CCJ and if its overturned there and they are not prepared, then that would mean further delays in Guyana in conducting elections so we would be pressing for GECOM to continue their preparation for early elections,” Jagdeo said in a video release.
He said if the CCJ upholds the Guyana Court of Appeal’s calculation, then there would be no election.
He also registered his concerns about the majority decision by the Court of Appeal that the no-confidence motion was not validly passed by 33 of the 65 votes in the National Assembly.
“No strange logic, no strange mathematics can change what is in the Constitution. The Constitution says the majority of all elected members of the National Assembly – and there are 65 of them – and therefore the majority has to be 33,” Jagdeo said, adding that ‘absolute majority’ was a “strange importation” into Guyana’s constitution.
Jagdeo had wanted general elections by March 21 that marked the end of the 90-day period after the December 21 no-confidence motion. After that date had become elusive he then pushed for April 30 when the existing voters’ list expires.
The Carter Center earlier this week had proposed as an alternative that steps be taken to extract the names of emigrants with the aim of holding elections in July or August rather than conduct house-to-house registration after which Guyana could see elections in November 2019.
Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Dawn Gregory accepted the arguments of government-hired lawyer, Queen’s Counsel Dr. Francis Alexis that 32.5 (half of the 65-seat National Assembly) is rounded up to 33 and an absolute majority is acquired by adding one to make it 34 votes. In that regard, Jagdeo said his part would respect the Court of Appeal’s decision.
“We’re respectful of the ruling of the court. We have always been respectful of the rulings of the court. One of the reasons we joined the CCJ is to have this external review and we hope that we would be able to convince the CCJ, and we think we can, that the no-confidence motion has been validly passed,” he said.
He observed that decisions on political cases “often” go “against us”, pointing out that one such matter was President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.
Jagdeo, who is also General Secretary of the PPP, said Friday’s ruling was not a setback. “We will continue to remain mobilised. We will continue to work every single day to ensure that people across Guyana know of the nature of this government they have witnessed in the past when the Chief Justice ruled and there was no stay to that ruling, that the government continued to act with impunity,” he said.
Jagdeo said there was widespread acknowledgement by, among others, then Opposition Leader David Granger, and Carl Greenidge and Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes who had been advocating for a no-confidence motion based on 33 votes.
The former Guyanese leader said the matter would be resolved “definitively” in the CCJ, the next level of appeal. At the same time, he welcomed the Guyana Court of Appeal ruling, saying it would be dealt with swiftly by the Trinidad-headquartered CCJ.
Jagdeo appealed to his supporters not to become demoralised but continue to work in communities across Guyana.