Bar Association condemns Govt’s failure to hold elections

first_img– AmCham, ICD want elections nowThe Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana has condemned the coalition Government for its failure to hold General and Regional Elections within the period mandated by the Constitution, which it reminded is supreme law.Bar Association President, Teni HoustyArticle 106 (7) states that upon the passage of a No-Confidence Motion, elections ought to be held within three months unless there is an extension by two-thirds of all the sitting members of the National Assembly.The coalition fell to the Opposition-tabled NCM on December 21, 2018, which meant elections were constitutionally due since March 21, 2019. But given the legal challenges which ensued, that timeline was on pause but was subsequently reinstated following the July 18, 2019 ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The Trinidad-based regional court validated the passage of the motion, which it said triggered early elections as outlined in Article 106.As such, the Bar Association in a statement on Friday said, “By failing to abide by the clear and unambiguous terms of the Constitution, the Government of Guyana has abdicated its responsibility, violated the Constitution, is operating outside of the rule of law and in breach of internationally recognised standards of democracy”.The GBA, which was also a party in the consolidated no-confidence cases, noted that the CCJ said the meaning of the constitutional provisions requiring elections is clear and it placed the responsibility of honouring those provisions on the “constitutional actors” in Guyana.The Bar Council further posited that while the Court did not order elections, it expressed the expectation that constitutional responsibilities would have been exercised with integrity in keeping with the “unambiguous” provisions of the Constitution, bearing in mind that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed as long ago as December 21, 2018.“The constitutional duty and responsibility of the President was to fix a date for elections within the three-month period set out in the Constitution in the absence of a parliamentary extension of that period, which extension the Bar Council notes was not sought and/or obtained before the period expired,” the GBA said in its missive.It further went on to remind of the constitutional duty and responsibility of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which the Bar Council said was “to be ready to administer and supervise elections within the time encompassed by the three-month period so as to comply with the Constitution.”The coalition Government has come under heavy criticism over its failure to call elections within that timeline. In fact, the ABE countries on Thursday said that by surpassing the September 18 deadline, the coalition is currently in breach of the Constitution – a situation which they said comes at a great cost to Guyana.“The prevailing political uncertainty undermines Guyanese institutions, compromises economic opportunities and delays development across all areas including infrastructure, education, health, and social services. It also hinders our ability to support Guyana’s development needs,” the joint statement from the United States, United Kingdom and European Union outlined.This position was also shared by the American Chamber of Commerce of Guyana (AmCham Guyana), which threw its support behind the missive. AmCham is also calling for the President to immediately set an elections date in full compliance with Guyana’s Constitution.“The Chamber notes that prolonged periods of uncertainty can have dire consequences on business and investor confidence in Guyana, especially foreign investment. Guyana’s reputable standing within the international community will be tested if democratic principles give way to partisan politics. The Chamber, therefore, calls upon the President to abide by the Constitution of Guyana and the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice to set an elections date immediately,” AmCham said.Also joining the calls for elections date to be announced now is the International Center for Democracy (ICD), which wants polls to be held as early as possible.“Since Mr Granger, in the last several months, insisted the responsibility for the election date belongs to GECOM and GECOM has now provided a date, it is inexcusable for Mr Granger to hold the country hostage any longer. Having allowed the constitutional deadline of March 21st and the CCJ deadline of September 18th to expire, it is incumbent on Mr Granger to set a date that is the soonest possible date,” the ICD said.The New York-based group contended that further delays in the conduct of elections will contribute to the continuation of undue hardships on the Guyanese people, intensify political uncertainty and defer economic and social development.“Already, the constitutional crisis has sent alarms globally to foreign and local investors and, as the ABE countries asserted, affect their abilities to provide development support for the Guyanese people… The ICD strongly maintains that Mr Granger has an obligation to announce a date for elections immediately, recognising that every day of delay adds to the tension and uncertainty prevailing in Guyana today,” the ICD said while pledging to ensure that democracy is restored in Guyana.last_img

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