By Gomatie Gangadin
– but GECOM non-committal
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to agree on a proposal for public vetting of elections day staff, although most of the political parties said they will give support to such an initiative.
The idea was first floated by the People’s progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) during a recent meeting with GECOM. However, in a statement on Tuesday the electoral body said at a meeting with the PPP/C on Monday the request was repeated for the commission to publish the names of persons to be employed by the Commission to work for the upcoming elections. “The Commission gave no indication that it would respond positively to this request,” the statement said.
However, Guyana Times International contacted some of the political parties likely to contest the elections and they all threw their support behind the initiative. A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), The United Force (TUF) and the United Republican Party (URP) all responded favourably. Reached for a comment on the matter, Member of Parliament for the A Partnership for National Unity, Basil Williams told the GTI that as far as his party was concerned, they will welcome this move as long as it does not interfere with the independence of the Guyana Elections Commission.
He however noted that if such a decision is taken, then the Commission must ensure that proper measures are put in place to ensure that the information which may be brought forth by the public is thoroughly investigated and not taken as gospel.
“Measures and systems must be put in place so that when a person comes forward with certain information, it can be determined whether it is true of false. They need to provide substantial evidence to support whatever claims they are likely to make because there is a thin line between facts and slander and this can lead to libel and so on…so all claims must be thoroughly investigated”, he added.
General Secretary of the PPP/C, Clement Rohee on Monday told a news conference that the party’s leaders want the public vetting exercise to be done since the staff will be involved in a matter of national importance and one which has far reaching effects. He disclosed that the public vetting will involve the publishing of the pictures and names of the persons and members from the public who may have contentious information about the person can come forward and make those known to the relevant personnel.
2011 Presidential Candidate for The United Force (TUF), Marissa Nadir, related that her party will also welcome the exercise if it is implemented since her party is interested in knowing whether there is any GECOM staff who has public political affiliations. “We support a public vetting of elections day staff. It is a good move. Persons involved in the elections process are supposed to be neutral so a public vetting on the staff will provide any information which may contradict this. We want any public political affiliation of any staff to be made known. We have no reservations about supporting this move”, Nadir expressed.
Adding voice to the call was the leader of the United Republican Party (URP), Vishnu Bandhu, who told this publication that his party too, has no qualms or issues with the call made by the ruling party.
President Donald Ramotar has no obligation to dissolve Parliament before announcing a date for General and Regional Elections, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall said, as he poured cold water on criticisms made by the other political parties and the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC).
Hours after President Ramotar announced that elections will be held on May 11, GTUC issued a statement condemning the act, contending that the life of the 10th Parliament should have been dissolved before a date was set for elections.
“GTUC condemns the continued prorogation and the ignoring of this by the Donald Ramotar regime, which must know fully well that the life of Parliament has to end. What the president has done is unprecedented in post independent Guyana,” the trade union said.
But Minister Nandlall made it clear on Wednesday, that the summoning, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament are matters that the Constitution resides exclusively with the President. “These powers and discretion are largely uncircumscribed, except for certain time constraints, none of which are relevant in this context. Perhaps these are not matters about which one ought to speculate, they are specifically provided for under the Constitution,” he said.
Many things which have unfolded in recent times are unprecedented, the Legal Affairs Minister said as he pointed to the minority Government which came into power following the 2011 General and Regional Elections, the cutting of the National Budget by the Opposition although it was declared unconstitutional by the High Court, the voting down of important pieces of legislation which are vital to national interest and attempts to move a no-confidence motion against the Government.
“The term ‘Constitutional crisis’ seems to be a phrase, frequently used to clothe irrational contentions which a veneer intellectually. So the breeze blows a little hard and there is a cry of Constitutional crisis,” Minister Nandlall added, stating clearly that there can be no crisis when there is constitutional compliance.
GTUC had also said that until elections are held, the Ramotar Administration will continue to spend taxpayers’ money without the involvement, oversight and approval of the nation’s highest decision making arm – the National Assembly. According to the union, “this lawless and reckless behaviour must be condemned.”
But the Attorney General said no crime is being committed. He explained that Article 219 of the Constitution and the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act, empower the Government to spend one twelfth of the budget of the preceding year until an Appropriation Act is passed.
“This position obtains, whether Parliament is in session or not, or whether there will be elections or no elections. Indeed, if Parliament was in session, the National Assembly could not have prevented this constitutional and legal formula in relation to spending during this period from being applied,” he stated.
Minister Nandlall said too, that GTUC must consider the fact, that the Government had warned the Opposition of the consequences, if it had proceeded with a no-confidence motion.
He said President Ramotar not only warned the Opposition, but pleaded with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) not to proceed along that route, as he offered alternatives. A prorogued Parliament is the consequence, Minister Nandlall said.
…cites clash with CSEC, CAPE exams
By Jomo Paul
Opposition Leader David Granger has called on President Donald Ramotar to rethink the date that has been set for the hosting of General and Regional Elections, pointing out that it coincides with Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE).
Contacted on the issue, a senior Government official told Guyana Times International that all efforts would be made to ensure a smooth holding of the polls in conjunction with examinations.
The President on Tuesday in an address to the nation proclaimed that elections would be held on May 11 this year after Parliament was prorogued using a constitutional mechanism on November 20, last year.
However, concerns had arisen after it was realised that the date named for the hosting of elections would coincide with the exams set for that particular day across the region.
According to a copy of the CSEC timetable acquired by this publication, subjects scheduled to be written on that day include Agricultural Science (Double and Single Awards); Theatre Arts; Electrical and Electronic Technology (Technical); and Food and Nutrition Paper 2.
With respect to CAPE, the subjects scheduled to be written on that day are Geometrical & Mechanical Engineering Drawing Unit 1 – Paper 2; History Unit 1 – Paper 2; Art & Design Examinations to begin for Unit 1, Papers 2 and 3, and Unit 2, Papers 1 and 2; and Communication Studies Paper 2.
While it must be noted that elections are generally held on Mondays, it should also be stated that throughout the entire month of May, CSEC and CAPE exams are scheduled. The next available Monday without an exam would be June 15.
The concern was made known on social media by political observers and students alike who questioned whether or not the Education Ministry was consulted before a date was set by the executive. The Education Minister was part of the Cabinet meeting that decided on the date of the elections.
The concern about the clash with exams scheduled in schools has been heightened given that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has requested that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) desist from using private entities as polling stations during this period.
In the opinion of the Opposition Leader, the selection of May 11 as the date for Elections was obviously a mistake on the part of the executive. According to him, there is still enough time left to alter the date since it has not been proclaimed.
“It is obviously an error or I would say a blunder … they probably didn’t put enough thought into it … maybe the President had better announce a new date rather than try to change the date of the examination; in fact, the date has not been proclaimed, so he may still have time to change it,” Granger told reporters on Wednesday.
It does not appear that Mr Granger is aware that if the elections were to be held on a Monday, the next window of opportunity would be in June.
Forced election date
Meanwhile, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Executive Member Basil Williams said that the President was hasty to name a date for General Elections, particularly without dissolving the National Assembly.
He ignored the point that the President had simply kept his promise to schedule elections by the first quarter of this year, and suggested that given the recent calls from the ABC countries for a date to be named, the President was influenced in the selection of a date for elections.
He told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that “the PPP is mortally afraid of elections …. he (President Ramotar) probably named a date to ease the pressure”.
According to Williams, a date for elections cannot be named without the dissolving of the National Assembly.
- hope for clean electoral process
The US, the UK and Canada on Thursday issued a joint release welcoming President Donald Ramotar’s announcement of May 11, 2015 as the poll date and called for improvements to be made to the electoral process including equitable access by all parties to the media.
The joint release was a further sign of the continued deep interest of Western countries in Guyana’s elections and follows a flurry of direct statements from its diplomats in Georgetown in recent weeks.
Abuse of the state media by the government had been one of the problems pointed out in several observer reports from the 2011 general elections. Political parties have again raised this issue in recent days.
The release follows:
Joint Press Release
Dr. Nicole Giles, High Commissioner, Canadian High Commission
Andrew Ayre, High Commissioner, British High Commission
Bryan Hunt, Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy
Joint Statement on President Ramotar’s Announcement of National and Regional Elections
GEORGETOWN- The United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom welcome President Ramotar’s announcement that national and regional elections will be held in Guyana on May 11, 2015. Elections are a critical first-step towards the return of a fully functioning Parliament.
We note the great strides made by Guyana during the 2011 general and regional elections. The Organization of American States (OAS) Electoral Mission Final Report, which referenced the Mission with observers from 14 countries, applauded significant efforts made by the Guyanese Electoral Commission (GECOM) to execute an overall inclusive and clean electoral process. The report mentioned the “high level of training and dedication exhibited by GECOM staff in the polling centers.” These views were also endorsed by the Commonwealth observation team. The report also noted areas of improvement to make subsequent elections more efficient and fair. We hope Guyana considers these recommendations, including: improving mechanisms that guarantee more equitable access to media and political financing, adherence to timely and standardized procedures for the electoral process, improving communications with all stakeholders in particular GECOM, and strengthening the promotion of gender balanced participation throughout the electoral process.
We are hopeful that the upcoming electoral process will allow the Guyanese people to debate the important issues that are facing the country. We are committed to working with GECOM, all political parties, and civil society to support free, fair and peaceful elections.
By Vishnu Bisram
New York-based Guyanese are pleased that President Donald Ramotar has announced a date, May 11, 2015, for election in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana. Guyanese living in New York and other areas in the United States feel the announcement of a date for the election will put an end to the idle chatter about the intention of the minority-led PPP government. They have since issued a strong call for a peaceful elections atmosphere.
Guyanese in the diaspora were anxiously awaiting a date for the election since the President has not been able to convene parliament because of the Opposition’s refusal to compromise over a no confidence motion.
Guyana has been having democratic elections since 1992 when the PPP was catapulted into office after it was dethroned in 1964 through an electoral conspiracy hatched by the US and Britain.
The PNC, which came to power in a coalition government in December 1964, with support from the US and Britain, rigged every election thereafter denying the people the right to choose a government. Most overseas-based Guyanese have credited the PPP for restoration of democracy and the progress the country has made since 1992.
Many feel the PPP should have called the election ever since the opposition cut the budget in April 2012.
Guyanese-Americans express hope and call for the political parties to take measures to ensure a free, fair, peaceful and transparent election. They also call on the parties to accept the outcome of the elections. They call on the parties to make an agreement to accept the will of the electorate and welcome the call by the President to invite international observers from UNASUR, CARICOM, Commonwealth, OAS, and the United Nations.
They feel that the Carter Center should also observe the polls and that foreign troops should be invited as happened in past elections to guarantee a peaceful atmosphere since “trouble makers” are known to engage in violence to intimidate voters preventing them from casting ballots.
Supporters of all three parties are upbeat about their electoral prospects and they hope for a clear verdict as opposed to the one in November 2011 that produced a hung assembly in which the PPP got 32 seats and the combined Opposition 33 seats. The constitution allows the single party with the most seats to form a government. The last Parliament has failed to enact meaningful legislation and there was a logjam over passage of bills. Most of those this writer spoke with say a hung parliament has failed Guyana.
–over wild accusations about Amaila Falls Project
The following is a press statement issued late last Wednesday night by the Office of the President, calling on the Opposition to “immediately apologise” to the government of Norway and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for deigning to suggest that they are involved in a conspiracy to violate the Constitution of Guyana. The following is the full text of the statement:
“For several years, the Opposition has revelled in spreading lies and distortions about Guyana’s development initiatives. Their sole objective has been to destroy the results of hard work undertaken by Guyanese over many years to advance our country.
“In its desperate attempts to destroy development projects, the Opposition frequently resorts to false accusations of corruption where none exists, in order to create a fog of mis-information that sows doubts and fears in the minds of the people of Guyana.
“In their latest foray this week, they have surpassed themselves by suggesting that the Government of Norway and the Inter-American Development Bank are “colluding with the Government of Guyana to violate the Constitution of Guyana”. Even by the standards of the Opposition’s ever-increasing wildness in their accusations, this is quite something.
“The Government does not intend to lower itself to engaging with such a preposterous assertion as has been made, but calls on the Opposition to immediately apologise to Norway and the Inter-American Development Bank. Both have long been supporters of Guyana in the global fight against poverty and the international community’s efforts to combat climate change. Their motivation in assisting the people of Guyana is purely honourable. Moreover, the idea that such a conspiracy could be concocted between the Government of Guyana, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government of Norway is simply ridiculous.
“The Government, instead, would like to repeat the following points:
“On October 24, 2014, His Excellency President Donald Ramotar gave an address to the nation, concerning Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy, with a specific focus on Amaila Falls.
“In his address, President Ramotar pointed out that of the US$150M received by Guyana to date in payments for forest carbon, US$80M would be invested as Guyana’s equity in the Amaila Falls project. This is the same position that has been repeated for years, and which the Opposition previously supported.
“The President pointed out that in August 2013, ‘self-serving political games attempted to destroy the project that was about to benefit all Guyanese by providing them with affordable, reliable, clean energy.’
“His Excellency then proceeded to give the strong commitment that he would not give up in the face of such base-less attacks and that his Government would remain steadfast in pursuing this transformative project.
“The Opposition refuses to acknowledge that Government made more than four presentations to them on the Amaila Falls project, starting in March 2012 through August 2013. In addition, the Government shared the principal confidential agreements in the project and requested comments / questions on these documents. No questions were received.
“Instead of constructive dialogue and engagement, the Opposition is now focusing on disparaging our reputable international partners such as the IDB and Government of Norway, an ill-advised strategy that assumes that the Guyanese people and the world will choose to believe the picture painted by the Opposition vs. the rigorous standards that these institutions abide by.
“The simple fact is the people of Guyana are paying too much for power that is too unreliable. The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project offers the opportunity to address this critical need. It seems that since the Government is committed to bringing the benefits of this project to the people, the Opposition’s intent is to prevent its development. The Government will persevere despite these narrow-minded attacks and will continue to do what’s in the best interest of all Guyanese.”
By: Jomo Paul