THE Working People’s Alliance (WPA), on Friday, renewed calls for the Parliamentary Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – to return to the National Assembly, and together with government, extend the period for the conduct of elections, now that the High Court has confirmed that the three month constitutional timeframe has expired, and an extension is required.
“The WPA calls on the PPP to acknowledge that the game is over, that its attempt at railroading the judicial process has been defeated,” WPA member, Ali Majeed, said during a press confidence.
Majeed said the WPA has always felt that the recent move to the court was nothing short of legal and constitutional gymnastics aimed at the larger PPP agenda or frustrating credible elections.
Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire, however, ruled that the ongoing house-to-house registration, being undertaken by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), is within the confines of the Constitution, and is therefore legal.
The Acting Chief Justice, on Wednesday, delivered her judgment in a case challenging the constitutionality of house-to-house registration brought before the High Court by Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram.
This ruling is hopefully the final blow against the PPP’s effort to get the court unnecessarily entangled in the country’s politics, said Majeed, adding that the political opposition must now return to the National Assembly and facilitate the desired extension.
The December 21, 2018 no-confidence motion triggered the need for early elections, however, the matter was tied up in a legal battle, which ended on June 18, 2019 when the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that the motion was validly passed, by which time, the stipulated three-month timeframe had expired.
Article 106 (7) of the constitution states: “Notwithstanding its defeat, the government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the elections.”
Though cognisant of the need for an extension, the opposition is maintaining that it will not return to the House.
“Refusal to go to the parliament and extend the time will further tarnish that party’s image and render it unfit to lead Guyana. We also urge the PPP’s enablers in the Private Sector Commission and other Civil Society Organisations to recognise that the tide has swung against them and turn a new page for the sake of national harmony,” said Majeed.
Executive Member of the WPA, Dr. David Hinds said if the PPP refuses to extend the time, government will stay in office by default.
He believes that Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo is not concerned about political stability in Guyana.
“Jagdeo is being a political bully, who is trying to bully the courts, bully the government and bully half of the population… the WPA looks dimly on that,” Hinds lamented, while further contending that Jagdeo has no respect for the rule-of-law.
Jagdeo, he said, wants to hide behind the rule-of-law in order to achieve his agenda of going to an election with a tainted list of electors.
Hinds said, “It is the list that he (Jagdeo) is concerned about, and the WPA feels very strongly that the kind of attitude he has needs to be rejected, and despite what they say about us, we have a big voice and we will use our big voice to push back against Jagdeo.”
Going forward, despite the actions of the opposition, the WPA urged GECOM to deliberate on the court’s recommendations and proceed with preparations for elections in a timely manner.
He noted that GECOM has space to work, since the court does not have the constitutional right to interfere with the process by which an election date is determined as outlined by the CCJ.
The WPA believes that cleaning the list through the house-to-house process and preparing for elections are important things to consider in moving forward.
“If nothing else is wrong with that list, you have 20,000 ID cards which are in the possession of GECOM and we do not know who those people are…we think house-to-house registration gives a better chance but the CJ says GECOM should look at additional means,” said Dr. Hinds.
He believes that if GECOM sticks to its timeline of three months (July to October) and finishes house-to-house registration in October, elections could be held in December.
“We in the WPA think if you go into next year then you are inviting yourself to the charge which they have been trying to put on the coalition but it has not been sticking, the charge of delaying tactics,” said Dr. Hinds.
Already, more than 230,000 persons have been registered through the house-to-house registration exercise. However, GECOM is currently awaiting the High Court’s written judgment to decide whether the exercise should continue.
“The question on the way forward, in some regards, was not determined…in the main because we are still not recipients of the written decision from the judge,” said Government-appointed GECOM Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, following the first meeting of the commission with their newly-appointed GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice, Claudette Singh on Thursday.