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Guyana: Constitutional timeline for elections must be honoured; gov’t in caretaker mode – CCJ rules

By News Room Guyana

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(L-R) Government defector, Charrandass Persaud; Attorney General, Basil Williams; Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

(NEWS ROOM GUYANA) — The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Friday afternoon urged the President, the National Assembly and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to abide by the letter and spirit of the clear constitutional provisions of a No Confidence vote – that elections should be held in three months.

In the meantime, the Court noted that the Constitution envisages that the Government continues as a caretaker or interim Government until elections are held and a new President is appointed. As such, the court said the Government is expected to behave as a caretaker.

While the Court stayed away from giving orders dictating the date by which elections should be held, it suggested that the provisions of the constitution set that timeline.

Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution says that the President and Cabinet shall resign on the passage of a No Confidence motion and that elections should be held in three months unless the National Assembly extends the timeline.

“These particular provisions require no gloss on the part of the Court in order to render them intelligible and workable.

“Their meaning is clear and it is the responsibility of constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them,” Justice Adrian Saunders, President of the Court stated in delivering the orders.

He added: “The court must assume that these bodies and personages will exercise their responsibility with integrity and in keeping with the unambiguous provisions of the Constitution, bearing in mind the No Confidence motion was validly passed as long ago as 21 December 2018.”

The Court noted that the consequences of the vote were put on pause until its ruling on June 18, implying that the three-month deadline counts from that time and so elections would be due by September 18, unless the National Assembly meets and extends the deadline.

Once those elections are called, GECOM would be duty-bound to run off the polls to elect a new president and Government.

“The Guyana Elections Commission has the responsibility to conduct that election and GECOM too must abide by the provisions of the constitution,” Justice Saunders stated.

“Article 106 of the Constitution invests in the President, and the National Assembly and implicitly, responsibilities that impact on the precise timing of the elections to be held,” the Court ruled.

He said since the provisions are clear, it would therefore not be right for the court by the issuance of coercive orders or detailed directives to presume to instruct these bodies on how they must act and therefore preempt the performance by them of their Constitutional responsibilities.

“It is not, for example, the role of the court to establish a date on or by which the elections must be held or to lay down timelines of deadlines that in principle are the preserve of political actors guided by constitutional imperatives,” Justice Saunders declared.

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