GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 8, 2019 (CMC) – President David Granger said, today, that he held “gruelling” talks with officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and would name a date for fresh regional and general elections, once the Commission has indicated it is ready to hold a credible poll.
“Let me make one thing clear, the government is in no way interfering or intruding in the constitutional role and duty of the Commission. It is for the Commission to advise me that it is ready, and then I will proclaim a date,” Granger said, after holding two hours of talks with the Commission.
“Naturally I would like to proclaim a date that is sanctioned by the National Assembly and the Constitution, but we have not intruded on the work of the Commission and we are prepared to support the Commission in what it has been doing.
“It is not for me to overrule the Commission. It is not for anybody. The Commission is independent. It is not for anybody to give the Commission instructions, as to when the elections are to be held. Once the Commission says it is ready, I will announce a date, and I hope that date is soon as possible,” Granger said.
He explained that remarks being made, that the “ball being in the President’s court is not a credible position to take”, an apparent reference to statements, made by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, who has been calling for the polls to be held no later than April 30, and has accused the government of seeking to stall the process, through GECOM.
Yesterday, Jagdeo told a news conference that the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would be writing the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of American States (OAS), among other regional and international bodies, to indicate that the present government is illegal.
“CARICOM will be faced with an illegal government, a member State that is illegal, and I hope that they’ll treat it as an urgent matter,” Jagdeo said, reiterating that a constitutional crisis was looming if the polls are not held by March 21, the date when the life of the National Assembly expires.
Jagdeo said he was not calling for CARICOM to mediate.
“I’ve not asked for any role so far… It’s premature to talk about mediation, but CARICOM must see it fit, the same way when we had a crisis in 1997, a crisis that they (the opposition) caused by street protests, by a refusal to accept the results of elections, although the margin was nearly 30,000 votes, and they took to the streets and they burnt buildings, etcetera, so that is the track record,” he said.
President Granger insisted that he has to be advised by the Commission before he could make any announcement, regarding the elections, adding “we had two hours of, I would say gruelling, discussions and I am very confident that when the Commission goes back to High Street (its office), it goes back to the drawing board, it will be able to give the Guyanese people or give the President, the type of guidance that I need to make that decision”.
Earlier, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, said that during the discussions with GECOM, the government also raised the issue of the outcome of the court cases, among other matters.
The government has appealed the ruling of the High Court that found that the December 21 motion of no confidence valid and refused also to grant a conservatory order stopping the countdown to the 90 days when the elections had to take place.
“At the end of the day, it is the decision of the Commission, upon which the executive branch has to rely on. And therefore it is a decision of the Commission that will inform his Excellency, in whatever decision or pronouncements he will make,” Harmon said.
Granger had also described the meeting with GECOM as “enlightening and useful engagement”, saying it appeared to the government “there are some differences (but) we did not feel that the differences were irreconcilable, but there needs to be a fresh search for agreement between the competing opinions within the Commission”.
Both the government and the PPP have nominated members on the Commission, with retired justice James Patterson serving as chairman.
Granger said during the discussions, much attention was focused on the electoral list to be used, “and it is evident, from the evidence provided at the meeting this morning, that the list is bloated, given the size of our population”.
He said much attention is focused on sanitising that list. The opposition Commissioners are against a move by the government-appointed members to conduct new house-to-house registration, as a means of cleaning the list, a position which Jagdeo has said is aimed at delaying the poll.
“As far as we are concerned, on the government side, we did not receive the sort of guidance that we need to enable me, as President, to make a proclamation to actually announce a date; but we have kept the door open and we have asked the Guyana Elections Commission to go back to the drawing board to examine how quickly…they could arrive at a consensual position…and we could have an agreement, as quickly as possible,” Granger said.