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Thursday, May 04, 2006

-- government defends extending elections deadline

THE government yesterday indicated that the architects of the Constitution contemplated the “frailties” involved in setting timeframes and said it will not consider accusations of ulterior motives in its resort to amend it to extend by a month the time for which elections are due after the dissolution of Parliament.

“Article 61’s main intent is to provide a cushion, some flexibility to GECOM (Guyana Elections Commission) in meeting its obligations to hold general elections within a constitutionally mandated timeframe after the dissolution of Parliament,” Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon told reporters.

President Bharrat Jagdeo dissolved Parliament Tuesday by way of proclamation after the National Assembly, without the support of the main opposition People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), passed an amendment to Article 61 of the Constitution to put the new elections deadline at September 4.

The original Article 61 stipulated that elections are to be held three months after Parliament is dissolved, putting the elections date at August 4.

However, with GECOM advising that it cannot administer the polls before August 30, the government moved to amend the Constitution to provide cover for the commission to hold the elections four months after Parliament is dissolved.

This means that elections must be held constitutionally on or before September 4, since Parliament stood dissolved yesterday.

Opposition Leader Mr. Robert Corbin vehemently denounced the amendment in the House Tuesday, charging that it was an attempt by the government t to unilaterally amend the Constitution under the guise that it was a simple matter.

“There cannot be peace without justice,” he declared.

However, Luncheon said the PNCR’s scepticism flows from their “public diatribes” about GECOM’s discharge of its mandate.

“But we are all beholders of the fact that GECOM is independent and its independence must be respected,” he argued at his weekly post-Cabinet meeting.

“It is clear to all why this amendment existed in the first place in the Constitution. It is even obvious that the need was so appreciated across the political and social partners that successive rounds of constitutional reforms left Article 61 untouched,” he posited. “The administration firmly believes that the existence of this remedy contemplated the frailties in setting timeframes that are effected by the will of the Executive, the Constitution and GECOM,” Luncheon added. (NEIL MARKS)