Three GECOM Commissioners say Chairman’s letter to the President ‘improper and illegal

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Opposition nominated Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) say the letter written to President David Granger by Chairman of the GECOM, Justice (Ret’d) James Patterson about the agency’s readiness for elections is “improper and illegal.”

The letter, dated March 19, informed the President that the Commission will be ready to hold elections no early than November this year.

The Opposition nominated Commissioners Bibi Shaddick, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn, who have been walking out of GECOM meetings for the past three weeks, noted that they were not consulted prior to the letter being sent. They received copies of the letter Tuesday and again walked out of the meeting.

“In my view this letter is clearly improper in terms of the process at the Commission…it is illegal in view of the constitutional duty of the Chairman and the Commissioners based on their duty which they swore to uphold the constitution without fear or favour,” Benn told the media at an emergency press conference held at the Office of the Opposition Leader Tuesday.

Referring to the Chairman’s action, Benn said, “he thinks he’s running a courtroom and the Commission is not there to serve the people as it is required.”

“This letter should not be allowed to stand,” Benn said.

Benn claimed that the contents of the letter point to an engineered effort to delay the elections.

“The issue which we’ve always had with this position arising out of GECOM which we warned about will arise…in the delays which we felt was being engineered in GECOM and perhaps with the collusion of agencies and persons outside of GECOM,” Benn stated.

The commissioners are also contending that the letter was not penned by the Chairman of GECOM, citing it is not in conformity with the way he speaks.

The constitutional deadline holding elections following the passage of the December 21 No-Confidence Motion expires on Thursday.

In the letter to the President on Tuesday, the Chairman advised that his decision was based on advice received from the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield.

An official List of Electors, he said, will have a qualifying date of October 31, 2019, after house to house registration.

Chairman of GECOM, James Patterson.

The Chairman also informed the President that the Commission will need $3.5B to conduct the elections.

“Kindly note that significant critical path activities associated with elections cannot commence prior to the availability of these funds to the Commission,” the Chairman said in his letter.

Further, he stated that “in the circumstances, no election date should be contemplated less than five months after these funds are placed at the disposal of and under the control of GECOM.”

It should be noted that this money is not catered for in the 2019 budget and so it will have to be approved in the National Assembly for which the Government has the majority.

The President in a letter to the Commission on March 13 mandated GECOM to present a work programme and outline its financial needs to fast track a date for elections.

GECOM is currently conducting house to house registration after the body decided to move ahead with its initial work plan for 2019.

This is being done at a cost of approximately $3B which the Opposition has argued could have been used to conduct elections.

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