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PPP will put GECOM, power sharing on constitutional reform agenda

PPP General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo speaking at a press preview launch of its manifesto for the 2020 general elections

The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Friday promised to include power sharing and an overhaul of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in constitutional reform should it win next year’s general elections, a day after one of Guyana’s more vocal private sector organisations flayed the elections management authority for the prolonged delay in holding general elections.

Speaking at the unveiling of a preview of its manifesto, party General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo said his party would hold genuine constitutional reform through nationwide consultations. He said under a PPP government, the constitutional reform process will include various forms of inclusive governance.

“So we are promising to discuss everything here. We have been talking about a new governance model – a new governance model for the country. We want the consultations on that too; whatever you call it, power-sharing, whatever but a governance model for Guyana. We want that to go to consultations as part of the constitutional consultations we’ll have,” he said.

PPP presidential candidate, Irfan Ali, at the same time, singled out the need to build trust, respectful, inclusionary, accountable and democratic and abide by Guyana’s constitutional reform. “We cannot have political trust and we cannot build political trust and we cannot have inclusion if we do not first and foremost respect this document that speaks to this which is the constitution of our country.

“We cannot speak about bridging barriers, bridging gaps, involving people if we cannot respect the rule of law and understand that democracy is the only way that can lead us to a sustainable future,” added the PPP’s presidential candidate.

Mr. Jagdeo said the constitutional reform commission would also be asked to examine whether the composition of GECOM – three from the opposition, three from government and a Chairman should be changed. “People talk about GECOM that the model doesn’t serve us well: the three-three-one model – therefore we want to put that out to people too,” he said.

The Carter-Price formula, named for former United States President Jimmy Carter and former Belize Prime Minister George Price, was invented in the early 1990s as part of reforms to GECOM that the PPP and other opposition parties had been configured to help the then People’s National Congress (PNC) rig the elections.

Several international election observer missions have since over the years expressed concern about the politicisation of GECOM because the seven-member commission is largely made up of political representatives.

The PPP General Secretary says the constitutional reform commission should include five representatives from government, five from the opposition and 10 from civil society. He says the commission will be tasked with conducting truly countrywide consultations.

The PPP’s promise to put GECOM’s make-up on the constitutional reform agenda followed concerns Thursday night by the President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Nicholas Deygoo whi said that something is wrong at the elections management authority.
“At GECOM it still continues to be a mystery as to how the organization failed in its mandate to be prepared for a March 2019 election having known that an early one would be called after the No Confidence Motion.

“Unfortunately, that type of failure has to be laid at the feet of those in captaincy of the organization such as its Chief Executive Officer and the Commission. Given that, the saga on House to House Registration exposed how flawed the current composition of the GECOM Commission is, Guyanese need a better way forward, and not to be held hostage to the battle for power,” Deygoo told attendees at the GCCI’s dinner and awards. They included former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller.

The opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion that was validly passed on December 21, 2018 constitutionally requires that elections be held within three months of its passage. The vote had been challenged right up to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which validated the motion, but President David Granger had often stated afterwards that the calling of elections depends on GECOM’s readiness.

Granger has since constitutionally declared March 2, 2020 – five months earlier than had been expected before the no-confidence motion – as the date on which Guyanese would go to the polls to elect a government of their choice.

At the recently-concluded secondary schools debating competition on Guyana’s constitution, a member of the panel of judges, Retired Justice Donald Trotman, suggested that members of the constitutional reform commission be drawn also from the student body because youths can bring useful ideas, judging from the quality of the student debates, for amending Guyana’s constitution.