Article 69 of the Constitution of Guyana mandates that, on dissolution, the next session of Parliament must commence no later than four (4) months from the end of the preceding session. The last session of Parliament was dissolved on December 30, 2019. The next session of Parliament must therefore begin no later than April 30, 2020.
It is in pursuance thereto, that the Bar Council of The Bar Association of Guyana calls on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) inclusive of its Secretariat to do all acts and things necessary in the shortest possible time to ensure the accurate, credible and transparent declaration of the results of the General and Regional Elections held on March 2, 2020 so that the next session of Parliament can commence as constitutionally prescribed, that is, no later than April 30, 2020.
Effect can only be given to the provisions of the Constitution for Parliament to be summoned by the constitutionally mandated timeline if GECOM and its Secretariat act immediately in a manner evincing transparency, impartiality and fairness.
Time is of the essence. The Constitution of Guyana is the supreme law of Guyana to which all persons and bodies are subject. Timelines laid down by the constitution are not merely matters of principle which one can simply choose to abide by or ignore. The failure to abide by the constitution has far reaching consequences, both nationally and internationally, inter alia for good governance and the rule of law.
Prior to the dissolution of Parliament on December 30, 2019, the National Assembly (which comprises Parliament) last sat on May 23, 2019. That is, almost eleven (11) months ago. Soon, it will be one year since the last sitting of Parliament. Such a record is not one for which any country would wish to be known.
Guyana is a parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law. The absence of parliamentary oversight of those who purport to exercise executive powers, whether de facto or de jure, is of grave concern as it places the rule of law under siege.
The Bar Council is deeply concerned by what appears to be a laissez faire approach taken by GECOM and its Secretariat. The absence of a declared election result some six weeks after the General and Regional Elections, in addition to being outside of the statutory prescribed period, is disgraceful and inexcusable. Court proceedings in the interim were dealt with dispatch. Counsel for all the parties adhered to timelines and both the High Court and Court of Appeal even sat on Sundays to ensure the timely determination of the matters. Despite the reported decision of GECOM over a week ago to effect a recount of the votes cast in all ten districts, same has not yet even begun as it continues to grapple with mundane decisions while precious time continues to be lost. The integrity of any system is as good as the integrity of the persons who operate the system. The recent open disregard for truth and decency by certain members of the GECOM Secretariat leaves a feeling of great distaste in the mouths of ordinary Guyanese who have been subjected to scorn, disdain and ridicule by the rest of the world even as we struggle to come to terms with the COVID-19 disaster. More will be said later about the continued relevance or function of GECOM when this chaos is over.
We once again remind that time is of the essence. The constitutional clock is ticking. There are a mere fourteen (14) days left before Guyana delves further into the constitutional abyss to which the country was pushed by GECOM on March 21, 2019 when it failed to hold General and Regional Elections within the constitutionally mandated period on the valid passing of the ‘No Confidence Motion’ on December 21, 2018.
The Bar Council urges GECOM and its Secretariat to put aside the imbroglio of the last six weeks by ending the impasse over results, with a declaration that permits the Constitution to be honoured and provides the people of Guyana with a freely and fairly elected Government.