GECOM should prepare for elections despite court ruling – PPP Commissioner

first_img…says house-to-house registration still unnecessaryThree days after the Court of Appeal announced its ruling on the no-confidence cases, People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner Robeson Benn believes that GECOM should still prepare for elections.PPP-appointed GECOM Commissioner Robeson BennHe told Guyana Times on Monday that while the matter has not yet been discussed following last Friday’s ruling, GECOM should be ready regardless of the next outcome. Benn notes that the Commission has the responsibility as laid out in the Constitution to be prepared in 90 days for any election and it ought to ensure that happens.“Personally, I am not of the opinion that house-to-house registration is necessary at this time and, at any event, based on the Constitution, GECOM has to be ready for elections within a 90-day period,” he said, pointing out that this especially applied given the possibility of changes to the ruling.Benn said he could not say definitely whether the issue would be placed on the agenda of the next statutory meeting; however, he planned to raise it. “We may have to raise it for it to be noticed and recorded in the minutes. But as of this moment, I cannot say what will happen. And I maintain that house-to-house registration wouldn’t be necessary.”Statutory meetingOn the other hand, GECOM Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward told this newspaper on Monday that the Commission has not met since the Court of Appeal ruling, but noted that the regular statutory meeting would be held Tuesday (today). “So any discussion as it relates to elections preparation will have to be done at the level of the Commission tomorrow.”GECOM headquartersBesides that, GECOM has already commenced rolling out its 2019 work programme which essentially is house-to-house registration as of last weekend. Ward said training in that regard has commenced and any discussions on advancing preparations for elections would have to be done at the level of the Commission when they meet today.On Friday, March 22, in a 2:1 split decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that a majority of 34 votes would have been needed to validly pass the no-confidence motion brought against the Government last year. The ruling means that the motion was not validly passed, and hence the coalition Administration was not toppled as a result of the events that occurred. The judgement has since been highly criticised, since the Judges inserted the word “absolute” into the constitutional provision regarding the majority.In December 2018, after the vote was taken and passed, Government had subsequently asked the House to reverse the passage of the motion, but its Speaker, Dr Barton Scotland, had declined the request and had advised that the court be approached. As such, Government had gone to the High Court to challenge the validity of the motion, saying that a 34-vote majority was needed for it to be successfully passed.Acting Chief Justice Roxane George had, in January, upheld the December 21, 2018 passage of the no-confidence motion, ruling that in Guyana’s 65-member National Assembly a majority is 33. This, however, was appealed by Attorney General Basil Williams.While Justice Rishi Persaud on Friday dismissed the appeal and concurred with the ruling of the High Court, his colleague appellate Judges allowed the State’s appeal. Both Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Dawn Gregory opined that while 33 is the majority of the 65-member Assembly, the successful passage of a no-confidence motion requires an “absolute majority” of 34, and not the “simple” majority of 33 that has been used to pass ordinary business in the House.Two days before the court ruling, President David Granger had written Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo through Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to inform him that he would be announcing a date soon for General and Regional Elections.His letter came just after GECOM had recently made a decision to delay elections by some eight months by pushing for house-to-house registration. Prior to the ruling, GECOM had ignored the constitutional requirement to have elections within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion.last_img

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