GUYANA: Harmon promises `serious resistance’ if Local Gov’t Elections not held next year

Joseph Harmon

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Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon today said that there will be “serious resistance” by the APNU+AFC coalition if Local Government Elections (LGE) are not held next year as mandated by law.

“…..Local Government Elections must be held so that communities can choose their leaders. Since the APNU+AFC came into office in 2015, we had two Local Government Elections in 2016 and 2018. The next LGE is due in 2021,” Harmon said.         

He was at the time delivering remarks at a Region Four Regional Democratic Council meeting.

During his address, Harmon said that the Opposition has noted statements made by President Irfaan Ali that the LGE will not be held until problems surrounding the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are addressed.

On the sidelines of the swearing in of the chairs and deputy chairs of regional councils on Monday, Ali told reporters that LGE will not be held until the issues which are currently affecting GECOM are fixed.

“…..As a people and the media…what we have to do is to fix what is there first and we have to ensure that we have a system that is working and a system that people trust and a system that is professional and a system that operates in an unbiased manner so that the people of our country can contribute”, Ali had said.

LGE are supposed to be held every two years. Under PPP/C governments, LGE were not held for about 21 years. It was not until the APNU+AFC coalition took office in 2015, that LGE were held in 2016 and then 2018.

According to Harmon, it is important that work begins to ensure that GECOM is prepared to host elections in Guyana.

As such, he said the coalition is renewing its call for the allocation of resources in the next budget so that GECOM can commence house-to-house registration in order to produce a new and credible list for LGE.

“I wish to place on record for Irfaan Ali and all who feel that they can violate the constitution with impunity that there will be serious resistance to this effort if they persist with it….So what Irfaan Ali is proposing is again an abandonment of constitutionally guaranteed Local Government Elections which is critical to democratic renewal…..Local Government Elections must be held…..The signs are clear and we will have to defend our constitution and our rights,” Harmon argued.

He said the Opposition will continue to implement measures to ensure that LGE are held and vowed  to “internationalize” the issue if the rights of the people are violated.

Pressure

“So you can expect, you can anticipate at least at the minimum that level of pressure and above that some additional stuff which we will do…what we are talking about is constitutional breaches, violations of the constitution…We will internationalize the issue. All Guyanese, every part of Guyana will know what is taking place…So that in every part of this country, there will be pressure bought to have Local Government Elections…everywhere Mr Ali goes, everywhere (Prime Minister) Mr Mark Phillips goes, they will be reminded that the constitution is a supreme law of Guyana and it must be respected,” Harmon noted.

“….Protest is one form of action, there are other forms which we are considering but the PPP must understand that we will not sit by and see them trample on the rights of Guyanese people, we will not sit by and see them violate our Constitution with impunity,” he added.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Anil Nandlall had told Stabroek News that LGE next year seem unlikely given the current elections petitions, a call by the opposition for a new voters list and police probes of officers of the electoral body.

“By law, Local Government Elections are due next year, but from all indications it does not appear that GECOM will be in a state of readiness for several reasons…,” Nandlall had said.

“How do we determine [GECOM’s readiness]? We have to fix the elections commission and that is the task of the elections commission itself as an independent constitutional body. All the government can do is to provide the resources and canvas for the changes,” he had added.

Nandlall had stated that not only is GECOM’s Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield  before the court, but that his party has no confidence in him again performing such functions at the electoral body.

“You have to be doubtful whether the Chief Election Officer and the Deputy Chief Election Officer and other functionaries, who are before the court charged with criminal offences, would be able to discharge their respective statutory responsibilities. Moreover, these persons’ credibility would come under heavy scrutiny. Important to an election commission is its credibility because public confidence is integral to the electoral process and moreover for the results declared by that commission to gain public acceptability. Unfortunately, the world saw the inner workings of GECOM on display during the elections and before March 2020 and subsequent to the elections,” Nandlall reasoned.

“Whichever side of the political divide wants it, both sides have expressed, at a minimum, disquiet with the elections machinery and elections officers. Earlier this week, APNU+AFC had expressed objections to the current electoral register and they are calling for a new house-to- house registration. On the PPP/C’s side, I can safely say that they have no confidence in the Chief Election Officer or the Deputy Election Officer and we have an extraordinarily sound basis for our views. Everyone saw the Chief Election Officer’s behaviour post, March 2nd,” he added.
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Comments

  • brandli62  On November 2, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    I cannot believe what I am reading here:

    “LGE are supposed to be held every two years. Under PPP/C governments, LGE were not held for about 21 years. It was not until the APNU+AFC coalition took office in 2015, that LGE were held in 2016 and then 2018.”

    How was this possible? Why wasn’t this challenged in the courts? Given the comments of the AG, it seems that the new administration wants to follow in the shoe steps of the previous PPP-led administrations. This is bad for democracy in Guyana.

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