President David Granger on Thursday stressed that the court could not instruct when general elections must be held because the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is an independent agency and that his administration remained committed to “free, fair and credible” elections with an acceptable voters’ list.
“The President cannot tell the Elections Commission (when elections) must be held; neither can the courts,” he told representatives of the private sector, religious organisations and trade unions at State House. He said there are no deadlines or timelines and there is no date for Guyanese to return to the polls to elect a government of its choice.
Granger made known his position a day after Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire said the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) indicated that polling day should be no later than September 18 or a new date if set by two-thirds of the Parliament.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, in a swift response, criticised the President for seemingly intimidating the judiciary. “It’s impossible to take a President who is so ill-advised seriously. He should familiarize himself with the Esther Perreira case in which the court actually ordered elections by a certain date. In this case the Constitution sets the timeframe for elections when a government is defeated on a vote of no confidence. GECOM was a party to the proceedings in the court and the CCJ orders are binding on it. I interpret his comments as intending to intimidate the Judiciary and reveals an authoritarian instinct. The president who says he respects the rule of law is now telling a separate, independent branch of government what it cannot do.”
The Chief Justice refused Christopher Ram’s request for a conservatory order to stop the house-to-house registration process that began on July 20 for a lack of evidence. However, she is accepting submissions from lawyers representing government, GECOM and Ram on arguments that the registration process is unconstitutional and will collide with the three-month timeframe within which general elections must be called upon the successful passage of a no-confidence motion. The motion was passed on December 21, 2018, and after a long-running legal battle, the Caribbean Court of Justice on June 18 ruled that it was validly passed by a majority of 33 to 32 votes.