Private sector, civil society groups stunned after address by President

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The Private sector and civil society groups were invited to meet with President David Granger at his residence –State House—located at Main Street, Georgetown and they expected to interact with him.

However, the President walked out of the Baridi Benab where the ‘engagement’ was held immediately after his presentation.

Veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis

Veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis, who is also the General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), told the media that he believes the political leaders are losing a “golden opportunity” to address the issue of governance.

“As he presented, I felt that I would have at least been given the opportunity to make a comment because I have my concerns,” Lewis told the media.

He added that “as the President and the Leader of the Opposition concentrate on the whole question of naming of the Chairman of the Elections Commission and the issue of free, fair or credible elections…they are losing a golden opportunity to address the issues that border on governance in this country.”

President David Granger addresses civil society and private sector members [Ministry of the Presidency photo]
Lewis believes that the political leaders need to look beyond elections and speak about governance issues which will exist.

President of the GTUC Coretta McDonald noted that while some clarifications were given on some issues, the invitees were “left shocked” because they attended the event to be able to ask questions.

President of the GTUC Coretta McDonald

“The thing is we represent quite a lot of this population and our members (are) asking questions and if we have no answers to give them then you can imagine what is going to happen,” she said.

McDonald added that there is a lot of tension in the communities but the union will now have to seek other avenues to have their concerns addressed.

The GTUC was comforted by the fact that the President committed to continuing meetings with the Opposition Leader to iron out the appointment of a new GECOM Chair.

The persons invited to listen to the address were from the GTUC, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), the Guyana Human Rights Organisation, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), the Private Sector Commission (PSC), a Hindu organisation and several others.

President of the GCCI Nicholas Boyer

President of the GCCI Nicholas Boyer, in an invited comment to the media, said he is concerned with the fact that the President, in his address, outlined that the court cannot determine when to hold an election.

“We obviously saw the Chief Justice [Roxanne George-Wiltshire]…said elections must be held [by September 18]…so that is something that is conflicting with that the President said that the Courts can’t say…and it causes some concern because there are two conflicting interpretations,” he noted.

Boyer was referring to a comment made by the Chief Justice Tuesday that elections ought to be held by September 18 unless the National Assembly extends that date.

The President, on the other hand, said: “No other agency or organ of the state has responsibility for elections. The independence of the Elections Commission is safeguarded by the Constitution.”

A section of the Private Sector and Civil Society members at State House [Ministry of the Presidency photo]
He added: “It is insulated from political influence, instruction and interference. The President cannot influence, the President cannot instruct, the President cannot interfere, the President cannot tell the Elections Commission when elections must be held neither can the Courts.”

The President’s comments were made as part of a written speech, similar to one read to members of the Diplomatic Corps earlier in the day.

The President also committed to free and fair elections, to complete the process for the consensual appointment of a new GECOM chair and to upholding the Constitution of Guyana.

Thursday afternoon’s meeting was the President’s first with the members of the business community and civil society since a No-Confidence motion toppled his Government and left it in caretaker mode.

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