THE experiences of many petro-states are cautionary tales for neighbouring Guyana.
The economically transformative oil finds there are naturally expected to result in improved standards of living for a population long gripped by high levels of poverty. To cash in on the discoveries by Exxon Mobil Corp and others, described as a “fairy tale” find by the international oil giant, requires stable and focused governance. The absence of a proclamation of a firm general election date by President David Granger in a much-anticipated public address on Wednesday night, however, has continued the unsustainable governance uncertainty that began with a no-confidence vote nine months ago.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s apex appellate court, has done its part in reviewing and upholding the contested no-confidence vote and wading through associated legalities to produce its consequential order s on July 12. In the latter regard, the CCJ established a new commencement date of June 18, 2019 for the three-month period required to hold a general election. That period expired nine days ago.
The expiration of the three-month period without proclamation of an election date intensified protests by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and triggered international concern. US and European diplomats last week Thursday issued a joint statement declaring Granger’s government in breach of the country’s constitution and threatened to cut off development funding unless a date was immediately set.
Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, is the latest of high-level international voices to call for elections without further delay. As she put it, “A general election in Guyana is constitutionally overdue. A general election should be held in accordance with the unambiguous constitutional imperative to do so.”
President Granger, however, insists that the “imperative” is not as “unambiguous” as claimed by the local opposition and key foreign observers.
Rather than set a date in his address on Wednesday night, the President announced a return to Parliament on October 10 to seek a further extension of the three-month period. President Granger fuelled yet more uncertainty when he stated “the earliest possible date for the holding of General and Regional Elections will be on Monday, 2nd March 2020”.
Free and fair elections have historically been a sore point in the republic that has endured decades of rigged polls. No repeat of those times is contemplated today but the urgent demand is for prompt fresh elections. While the election disputes rage, voices from Caricom, and from Port of Spain, have remained curiously silent. Much of the rest of the world has already signalled clear attitudes about delay upon delay.
Considering this country’s close economic and other ties to Guyana, what position does the Government hold about the deepening crisis in the Caricom partner republic? And where is Caricom’s voice and assistance in settling the political and constitutional crisis in Guyana?