EXECUTIVE member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Aubrey Norton says the latest statements by Opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, that government has been illegal since March 21, 2019 is just another tactic by the former president to gain power.
After continuously calling for elections by September 18 and establishing that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) would consider the government illegal after that date,
Jagdeo on Thursday, reneged on that position, now contending that the government has been illegal since March 21, a period when the validity of a no confidence motion against the government was still being deliberated upon in the court. “We have already established that the government is not illegal and we’ve already established that to read [Article 106] section 6 without section 7 is really not to deal with the law properly,” Norton said, as he responded to questions during the PNCR weekly press conference at Congress Place on Friday. “The Opposition leader is in a place where he hopes to get power at all cost, the government is clearly operating legally. The Elections Commission has jurisdiction over when elections are called and the minute the GECOM says to the President that we are prepared and ready and there will be a credible list there will be elections.”
Jagdeo, he says, is hoping to get power through confusing the populace.
“A lot of the coverage [Jagdeo is getting] is aimed at getting political power through creating confusion, and we will do everything to ensure that, that doesn’t happen,” Norton said. “I don’t know what message is getting over and to whom, what I do know is that the government has served Guyana well we have restored decency, integrity, and Guyana is on the right path and will continue on that path. In politics people take sides, to him the message might be getting through, but when we travel the length and breadth of this country people overwhelmingly endorse David Granger and the present government. They see this government as a ray of hope.”
Jagdeo’s latest statement came after the ruling, on Wednesday, by the Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire, 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.
Jagdeo and the PPP have been calling for the cancellation of House to House Registration, which began on July 20 and is scheduled to conclude on October 20. The party contends that elections must be held by September 18, even though House to House Registration is necessary in order to compile a new Official List of Electors for elections to be held, as the last list expired in April, 2019.
Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram, had brought before the High Court a case challenging the constitutionality of House-to-House Registration. Ram, through his attorney Anil Nandlall, had argued that in addition to the national exercise being unconstitutional, it clashes with the Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution and the judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Justice George-Wiltshire ruled that the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana provide for the conduct of House-to-House Registration as a form of verification – a position that was argued by the Attorney-General and the attorneys who represented the Chief Elections Officer – Senior Counsel Neil Boston and Roysdale Forde. She also confirmed that the court cannot fix a date for elections in Guyana. PPP has since said that it will not contest the decision of the court.
The PNCR in a statement said it welcomed the decision confirming that House-to-House Registration is legal and that the PPP calls for it to be cancelled is an “attempt to mislead people of Guyana”.
“This decision is in keeping with the CCJ ruling that it is not within the court’s remit to identify a date for elections. It should also be noted that the Chief Justice reaffirmed the CCJ ruling that election matters fall within the jurisdiction of the President and the GECOM. It seems logical therefore that GECOM has the authority to compile a New Register of Registrants (NRR) in keeping with the law. The PPP attempts therefore to suggest that the House-to-House Registration is useless…it is just another ploy,” Norton read from the party statement.
“House-to-House registration is a legal process which permits the people of Guyana to register. It will ensure that there is a new credible list that will result in credible elections. The PNCR wishes to urge all Guyanese to operate with the law by registering. We wish especially to urge the youth of Guyana to register. It is the youth of Guyana, among others, who are benefiting from the decisions of the Granger led APNU+AFC government.”
Jagdeo is contending that his party will not recognise decisions made by the government after December 21, when a no confidence motion against government was voted on in parliament. The constitution says that elections are to be held 90 days after the passage of the no confidence motion, at that time putting the date at March 21.
Government, however, challenged the passage of the motion in court. While it was upheld in the High Court in a ruling in January, the decision was reversed in March by the Court of Appeal, and it wasn’t until June 18 that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the final court of appeal, ruled that the motion was validly passed. In April the CCJ had noted that until it reversed the March decision of the Court of Appeal of Guyana that the motion of no-confidence was not validly passed, the status of the government was unaffected by the result of the vote on the motion of no-confidence.