Hours after refusing to divulge details of Wednesday’s meeting of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) , the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-nominated election commissioners said they did not submit a written proposal on the shortest possible time Guyanese could go to the polls for fear that that would have led to another delay in naming a date.
At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, PPP Commissioner Sase Gunraj emerged at 4:44 pm telling reporters only that “the Chairman would render a decision at 10:30 tomorrow (Thursday) morning on the date”. “I am not willing to say anything except repeating this: the Chairman will render a decision at 10:30 am”. He declined to say whether he was pleased with the meeting and whether he had submitted a proposal.
But at 8:30 pm media houses received a joint statement from Gunraj and fellow pro-PPP election commissioners Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn, defending the decision not to submit a written workplan on the grounds that that could contribute to a further delay in GECOM determining when it would be ready to conduct the general and 10 regional council elections.
“On the contrary, it was communicated to that meeting that we considered the timelines for the holding of elections and deliberately did not present a proposal, particularly on the date earmarked for making a decision, because we did not want to get involved in a protracted debate that would have further delayed the decision-making process of the Commission. In that regard, after considering timelines and determining that it was eminently possible to hold elections before the end of the year, we chose instead to reiterate that position to the Chairman and Commission, instead of making a formal proposal,” the three commissioners said.
In a separate statement, PPP General Secretary and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo said his party’s three nominated election commissioners did not want to bog down the commission with additional discussions that could have further delayed informing President David Granger on GECOM’s readiness to conduct the polls.
“The Commissioners representing the Opposition made a conscious decision not to submit another proposal at this time which would have invariably triggered another round of protracted discussion designed to delay a decision being made when the primary purpose of the meeting was to authorize the Chair to write the caretaker President before the end of the day (September 18),” Jagdeo said.
GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh is 10:30 am Thursday expected to make known her decision on when her elections management authority would be able to conduct elections and inform the President. That would pave the way for Granger to dissolve Parliament and name an elections date.
At 6:40 pm GECOM’s Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward issued a statement almost mirroring the views of pro-governing coalition election commissioner, Vincent Alexander that Gunraj did not make a presentation and stuck to his and his two other colleagues’ – Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick – position that the elections could be held. The GECOM Public Relations Officer’s statement also echoed Alexander’s disclosure to the media that fellow pro-governing coalition election commissioner Charles Corbin delivered a presentation. The spokeswoman described Corbin’s workplan as “comprehensive with timelines and considerations reflecting the discussions”.
Gunraj, Benn and Shadick noted that the GECOM Chairman had committed to both of the major political stakeholders that GECOM was working to achieve elections before the end of the year. They said they had provided several timelines over the last nine months, which have only been debated without yielding any meaningful outcome. “All of these timelines, adjusted for time elapsed, clearly point to GECOM’s ability to hold credible elections long before the end of 2019,” the PPP-aligned election commissioners stated.
Guyanese were originally constitutionally due to go to the polls to elect a government of their choice by next year August, but elections are now expected to be held several months earlier due to last December’s passage of an opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion. The passage of that motion by 33-32 in the 65-seat National Assembly was subsequently validated by the Caribbean Court of Justice after a lengthy legal battle.
If the government had initially accepted that the motion had been validly passed, elections would have been due the latest by March 2019. The CCJ has since labelled the Granger-led administration an “interim” or “caretaker” government. Granger has conceded that much but he and his Cabinet have refused to resign, and allow the President and government to remain in office until elections are held and a new President is elected.
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has since asked the High Court to order Cabinet, which continues to hold meetings, to resign.