GECOM says it has no authority to remove Dr. Asha Kissoon from Parliament

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The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Wednesday declared that it has no authority to remove Dr Asha Kissoon, noting that a Parliamentarian can only be removed under clearly defined circumstances and procedures and none of these provides for GECOM to enforce removal.

GECOM was responding to a letter to the press in which the writer suggested GECOM has remained silent on the issue and called for the Commission to take action against Dr. Kissoon.

In response, GECOM has clarified that discussions are ongoing within the Commission about the matter, and the public will be informed of the outcome once these discussions conclude.

However, GECOM said it does not possess the authority to remove Dr. Kissoon from her parliamentary position.

Article 156 of the Constitution of Guyana outlines the specific conditions under which a Member of Parliament may be removed from the National Assembly, and GECOM’s involvement is not stipulated within these conditions. Therefore, any action to remove Dr. Kissoon would fall outside GECOM’s jurisdiction.

GECOM reaffirmed its commitment to upholding its Constitutional mandate strictly within the framework of the law and reminded all stakeholders of this obligation.

The Commission encouraged all parties to respect the legal boundaries and continue engaging in informed discussions on this matter.

 

What does Article 156 say?

Article 156 of the Constitution of Guyana outlines the conditions and procedures under which a Member of Parliament (MP) can vacate their seat. Here is a summary of the key points:

  1. Resignation or Loss of Qualifications: An MP vacates their seat if they resign in writing to the Speaker or if they cease to be qualified to be elected or appointed as an MP.
  2. Disqualification: An MP must vacate their seat if they become disqualified for any reason listed under Article 155 (such as holding certain public offices or allegiance to a foreign power).
  3. Party Discipline: If an MP elected on a party list ceases to be a member of that party or declares allegiance to another party, they must vacate their seat. The leader of the party must notify the Speaker in writing of this change.
  4. Absence: If an MP is absent from the National Assembly without permission for a specified period, they may be required to vacate their seat.
  5. Procedures: Specific procedures must be followed for these conditions to be met, ensuring due process.

 

What is the issue with Dr Kissoon?

Dr. Kissoon has shown no sign of willingly giving up her seat in the National Assembly despite an agreement among three small parties that contested the 2020 General and Regional elections. Those parties are: The New Movement (TNM), the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and A New and United Guyana (ANUG).

The parties agreed to merge their votes to secure a single seat in Parliament and to share occupation of that seat in proportion to the votes each party earned.

The result of the election was that LJP and ANUG, each with more than 2200 votes, would occupy the single seat won by the merger for the majority of the time, while TNM, with 244 votes, was entitled to occupy the seat for 91 days.

LJP’s Lenox Shuman first went into the National Assembly. He then resigned, making way for Dr. Kissoon of TNM to enter Parliament; she took up her seat on April 24, 2023.

Now, ANUG representatives and Mr. Shuman have said that Dr. Kissoon should have already been out of Parliament, making way for the ANUG representative Althia King.

In a letter written to GECOM Chairwoman, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, the Head of the TNM’s List of Representatives in 2020, Gerald Forde asked that Dr. Kissoon be removed from the National Assembly. He, however, asked GECOM to first probe whether he (Mr. Forde) is still in fact the representative of the TMN’s list of candidates since both he and the deputy representative, Josh Kanhai left the party because of internal issues.

Mr. Forde told Justice Singh that he does not recall submitting any official correspondence indicating that he was no longer part of the party. That correspondence would have removed him as the representative of the list.

Without it, and without any engagements from GECOM, he believes he may very well be the representative of the TMN’s list. And he believes that would allow him to recall Dr. Kissoon from the National Assembly.

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