The af­ter­math of the vote of no con­fi­dence and pre­par­ing for elec­tions (Part II)

Stabroek News - - Letters -

Last Wed­nes­day, the Pres­i­dent and the Op­po­si­tion Leader met to dis­cuss the way for­ward, fol­low­ing the 21 De­cem­ber 2018 vote of no con­fi­dence in the Gov­ern­ment. The out­come of the meet­ing was a pos­i­tive one. Hav­ing com­mit­ted them­selves to re­spect­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion and putting the pub­lic in­ter­est first, and rec­og­niz­ing ‘the high im­por­tance of con­tin­u­ous en­gage­ments be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion, the im­por­tance they hold for the na­tional in­ter­est and the el­e­vated pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tion’, the two lead­ers have agreed to the fol­low­ing:

(a) Hold­ing of the gen­eral and re­gional elec­tions, sub­ject to the readi­ness of the GECOM;

(b) Gov­ern­ment would re­main in of­fice to en­sure con­ti­nu­ity in the de­liv­ery of pub­lic ser­vices;

(c) The court’s in­ter­ven­tion at the re­quest of the Gov­ern­ment would con­tinue in or­der to bring about clar­ity and res­o­lu­tion on the two is­sues raised. These are: whether the num­ber 33 con­sti­tutes a ma­jor­ity of the all the elected mem­bers in the 65-seat Na­tional As­sem­bly; and whether the vote of a mem­ber of Na­tional As­sem­bly who holds a for­eign pass­port is a valid one in the con­text of the vote of no con­fi­dence in the Gov­ern­ment.

(d) Par­lia­ment would con­tinue to func­tion in the nor­mal way, pend­ing the con­clu­sion of the le­gal pro­ceed­ings;

(e) Two rep­re­sen­ta­tives (one from each side) would be li­ais­ing with GECOM to de­ter­mine its readi­ness for hold­ing elec­tions.

To­day marks the 24th day since the mo­tion was passed in the As­sem­bly. We there­fore have a lit­tle over two months (66 days) within which to hold the elec­tions. The Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides for an ex­ten­sion of the dead­line by two-thirds of the votes of all the elected mem­bers of the As­sem­bly. This to a large ex­tent would de­pend on GECOM’s readi­ness to hold elec­tions within the 90-day dead­line.

GECOM’s ap­proved bud­get for 2019 has more than dou­bled, from $2.257 bil­lion in 2018 to $5.371 bil­lion. Ac­cord­ing the Min­is­ter of Finance, ‘[t]his is to fa­cil­i­tate early prepa­ra­tions and to en­sure the smooth con­duct of these most im­por­tant elec­tions’. Con­sid­er­ing that GECOM had suc­cess­fully run off the re­cent lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions, it would be in a sub­stan­tial state of pre­pared­ness. How­ever, it will need to re-pro­gramme its ac­tiv­i­ties planned for over the next year or so, so that they can be ex­e­cuted, per­haps in an ab­bre­vi­ated way, over the next two months. Whether this is pos­si­ble, it is for GECOM to de­cide. It is in this re­gard that the role of the two rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­ferred to at (f) should be viewed. A meet­ing is planned to take place in the next few days, the out­come of which hope­fully will be made pub­lic.

Con­tin­u­a­tion of the court cases

As pointed out last week, while it is within the Gov­ern­ment’s right to seek ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion if it is dis­sat­is­fied with the Speaker’s rul­ing on the no con­fi­dence vote, we had ad­vised against do­ing so be­cause of the po­ten­tial of cre­at­ing fur­ther ten­sions in the Guyanese so­ci­ety. We still main­tain that po­si­tion. Be­sides, the court will need enough time to re­flect on the two mat­ters be­fore rul­ing on them. What­ever the out­come, we also have to fac­tor in the pos­si­bil­ity of an ap­peal to the Guyana Court of Ap­peal, then to the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice. It is there­fore likely that the com­plete ju­di­cial re­view process will not be con­cluded within the 90-day dead­line or any ex­ten­sion thereof, in which case elec­tions will have to be held to com­ply with the re­quire­ments of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

As re­gards a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) hold­ing a for­eign pass­port and by virtue of that, he or she has not met the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for hold­ing such a po­si­tion, the Con­sti­tu­tion is clear that such a per­son’s par­tic­i­pa­tion and vot­ing in the As­sem­bly does not in­val­i­date any de­ci­sion taken by the As­sem­bly. While we do not con­done any

Count­ing down to­wards elec­tions, and GECOM’s readi­ness

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