…Commissioner says GECOM proceeding with house to house registration own riskGecom’s Chairman, Retired Justice James PattersonGECOM CommissionerSase GunrajA bench of five Justices from the Caribbean Court of Justice heard submissions from all parties in the No Confidence Motion and Guyana Elections Commission cases, in two marathon sessions on May 9 and May 10 and much hinges on whatever decision they deliver.The crucial decision was on the calculation of what constituted a “majority” to give effect to Art 106 (6): “The President and the Cabinet shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of majority of all elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” That time has already elapsed and another week is about to expire.During the hearings, Justice Saunders had asked the Attorney representing GECOM, Stanley Marcus: “If the vote of no-confidence was valid and if Parliament ought to be dissolved and if the parties don’t agree to extend the three-month period then we have a choice between a situation where with each passing day beyond that three-month period—a dagger is being thrown at the constitution every day and on the other hand having an election which is a little bit less than perfect. Now, which of those two options is better for democracy?”Marcus allowed that democracy could not be sacrificed for “speed” upon which Justice Saunders cited the Constitutional alternative of Art 106 (7) which reads, “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”However, even as Guyana awaits for the CCJ judgement, GECOM sponsored advertisements about house to house registration have sprung up. According to a GECOM Commissioner, going ahead with the exercise is flouting the law.GECOM proceeding at own riskIn an interview with this publication, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj made it clear that he respects the process the CCJ has to go through before they arrive at a decision. But he noted that GECOM’s use of that time to proceed with house to house registration is in breach of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act of 2000.“As it relates to the renewal of the list of electors, the actions of GECOM to proceed with House to House Registration amounts to a deliberate flouting of the laws of Guyana, specifically Act 15/2000 and Act 10/2018.”The law stipulates that the list shall be updated by Continuous Registration and/or Claims and Objections and this should have been embarked upon since last year and at latest, in January 2019 after the Commission reconvened.According to Gunraj, GECOM’s tenuous standing is especially the case in light of the fact that no information regarding expenditure has been presented to the Commission for approval or even scrutiny by all the commissioners.“These actions will no doubt be reviewed, preferably by the CCJ or some other competent court, at some time later. In the meantime, to do so would be to their own peril,” Commissioner Gunraj added.Earlier this month, GECOM was advised by its own Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzel’s, that “based on (election laws), the voters list must be updated bi-annually by adding persons who are now qualified to be registered, to that list and those who are no longer qualified to be registered, to be taken off that list.”The opinion, expressed by Dazzell, also states that: “The use of the work ‘revise’ [in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 15 of 2000] suggest that the process is not one where a ‘new’ List is generated, but one where the most recent list is updated or amended….I therefore advise that procedures be put in place to ensure the revision of the list, otherwise the Commission would be acting in defiance of the law and may prejudice aby by-election that may become necessary.”This runs counter to the arguments made by the Government-nominated Commissioners on GECOM that a new list was required through house-to-house registration. In fact, a United Kingdom (UK)-based Guyanese has gone to the courts over the exercise, arguing that if it goes forward, she will be disenfranchised. In fact, the Opposition has contended that many more will be in the same predicament.Meanwhile, if the Caribbean Court of Justice rules that last year’s no confidence motion against the Government was validly passed, it means early elections would be required and the Government by law should have held elections since March 19 of this year.In published ads, GECOM has explicitly announced that it has launched preparations for house to house registration. Since this process will take at least six months and possibly a year, observers opine that with the delay in the CCJ delivering its ruling on the NCM case expeditiously as they had promised, they are allowing GECOM to make its prediction of delayed elections a self-fulfilling one that, in the words of one of its Justices, “throws a dagger at the Constitution every day.”In February, the CEO of GECOM, Keith Lowenfield, had declared that if there were to be house-to-house registration, General and Regional Elections could not be held before February 2019. In that month, the three Government appointed Commissioners, with the support of the Chairman James Patterson, outvoted the three PPP Commissioners to pass a motion for the Secretariat to proceed with its 2019 Work Programme.This work programme included house to house registration. In like manner they also voted to declare that GECOM was not in a financial position to conduct General and Regional Elections in 90 days.