GEORGETOWN, Guyana, February 27, 2019 (CMC) – President, David Granger, has urged the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to “commence preparations for the conduct of” regional and general elections.
In a letter to GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, on Monday, Granger also wrote that “The government will initiate measures to provide the funds required and to seek the approval of the National Assembly, to ensure that an agreement can be reached, given both the Constitutional requirements and GECOM’s capability.”
Patterson, in a February 21 letter to President Granger, had indicated that following GECOM’s February 19, 2019 statutory meeting, it cannot deliver credible elections within three months’ time and, as a constitutional agency, it would require appropriation of funds from the National Assembly.
“Concerning the delivery of elections, it is useful for me to bring to your attention the following: GECOM had made it known, since 2014, that it requires a minimum of approximately six months, commencing from the time of notification, within which credible elections can be held. Further, all requisite financial resources would then have been at our disposal and under our control,” Patterson wrote.
He continued that while the specific focus in 2014 was local government elections (LGE) the principal, critical-path process and resource requirements for general and regional elections are similar.
In his response, Granger said he had taken note of the chairman’s “statement to the effect that the Commission does not have the capability to deliver credible general and regional elections, within the three-month time-frame, commencing 2018.12.21, and that additional funds, appropriated by the National Assembly, need to be provided”.
The main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has been calling for fresh regional and general elections to be held no later than March 19, in keeping with the Guyana Constitution, after the party successfully tabled a motion of no confidence in the coalition government on December 21, last year.
Under the Constitution, elections must be held within 90 days, following the passage of the motion, and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, has called on the authorities to comply with the regulations.
But GECOM has said it cannot hold credible elections within that time frame and is suggesting the polls could most likely be held in July.
In his letter, Patterson said that the Commission secretariat had suggested that it may be able to deliver elections in approximately five months, if it curtails the period normally allotted for some tasks, including a reduction in time for Claims and Objections.
“It is my view that any arbitrary reduction in time would negatively impact the quality of the output. In light of the provisions of the Constitution in this regard; and since it is beyond our logistics capability to facilitate the first option, I respectfully request that the second option available, be pursued and that the commission be informed accordingly,” Patterson added.
Regarding finances, Patterson noted that the three billion dollars for house-to-house registration had been approved by the National Assembly in 2018, after the need for such was “unanimously approved” by the Commission.
But he said he is also guided by the Finance Ministry’s indication that funds for new elections can only be utilised, in accordance with the program, by which the appropriation fund was informed.
“I shall be grateful if all the necessary actions could be taken to ensure that the necessary funds are placed at our disposal and under our control, to facilitate legal coverage and authority for the expenditures we have to undertake pursuant to the holding of elections,” Chairman Patterson wrote.
Meanwhile, President Granger, who left here, yesterday, for Cuba for continued medical treatment for cancer, has requested a meeting with Jagdeo, next week Wednesday, to discuss the possibility of extending the deadline, by which general elections should be held and also funding for the polls.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who, on behalf of the President, invited the opposition leader, by letter, said that the meeting is scheduled for Wednesday March 6, at 11AM, and “the President wishes to consult with you on the following matters: (1) The National Assembly’s constitutional role in the present situation; and (2) Guyana’s Elections Commission’s readiness and requirements for funding to enable it to conduct General and Regional Elections”.
“The President wishes to advise that he has written to the Chairman of GECOM, urging him to initiate arrangements for the conduct of general and regional elections and committing to support his request for financing those elections,” Harmon said, in the letter to Jagdeo.