Dear Editor,On your news item on the President meeting GECOM (GT Aug 9), it is noted that GECOM is an independent agency that is not subjected to the dictates of Government (and by extension the official Opposition) although four of its seven members are appointed by the Government (President) and three by the Opposition. Not surprisingly, a lot of eyebrows were raised when the President invited GECOM members and the body’s CEO for a consultation (meeting) in his office. This is highly unusual. It may be the first such meet by GECOM in the country’s history. Many, particularly lawyers and academics, felt it was inappropriate for the Executive to meet with GECOM. Even ordinary business people and ordinary folks I spoke with felt it is not the President’s responsibility to meet with GECOM.The Executive meeting with GECOM was seen as “intimidating the body” towards election objectives especially when the body has begun preparations for elections. But the President explained that his meeting was simply to assure GECOM that the Government is willing to provide the necessary resources for the preparation of elections that are due as a result of the successful passage of a No-Confidence Motion against his Administration. The President assured that his Government would not hinder the work of the Elections Commission, and he also stated he would respect decisions of the body. The President also called on all Guyanese to respect the independence of GECOM and its decisions. One Commissioner is reported to have described the meeting as a waste of time. The public is divided on the meeting on party loyalty with some supporting the President meeting GECOM and the others opposed to the meeting. GECOM must never be seen to be compromised.The President and his coalition Government partners say they want House-to-House Registration in preparation of a new voters’ list, but he said he would accept the decision of GECOM (really the new Chairwoman Ret’d Justice Claudette Singh) on the issue.However, there is one problem on the President’s position on a date for election. The President has insisted that he would not call (announce a date for) elections unless GECOM tells him it is ready for elections. And GECOM insists that a date is the prerogative of the President. GECOM does not have a constitutional date to set a date for elections. Even lawyers for GECOM and the Attorney General are in agreement that GECOM cannot fix a date for elections. The procedure is the President fixes a date in accordance with the laws laid down in the Constitution. Whatever date the President proposes, GECOM would respond and inform the Chief Executive if it can pull off credible elections by that date. In 2001, GECOM informed the President that elections were not possible on a proposed date and it was adjusted upon agreement by all parties.GECOM usually needs three months to prepare for an election. The Constitution also caters for three months as indicated in the Article relating to the successful passage of a No-Confidence Motion. Thus, GECOM must be in perennial preparation for elections just in case a Government loses a No-Confidence Motion. In fact, every country with a parliamentary system is always prepared for elections with a month’s notice. The body may need less time to update the voters’ list that was used last November for local elections.GECOM’s hands are tied on House-to-House Registration until the court rules on August 14. GECOM meets on August 15 to review the court’s ruling. GECOM is likely to accept the ruling. Justice Claudette would not want to defy the court’s or the CCJ’s ruling using September 18 as a deadline for elections even though it is impractical.The court does not have too much wiggle room on the issue of registration and an election date. The law does not cater for House-to-House Registration in light of the No-Confidence Motion in which elections are constitutionally due by September 18 as interpreted by our country’s highest court, the CCJ. That ruling supersedes all other decisions made by Gecom or lower courts or the Government. The CCJ’s ruling is the final law that cannot be reversed or defied in a democracy.Will the High Court (Justice Roxane George) thread into the request of the Opposition on powers of the Executive to resign, dissolve the assembly, and fix a date for elections? The court is an independent branch of the Government and can’t thread into the powers of the presidency. The court can only interpret the law as indeed the CCJ did. The court is likely to repeat the judgment of the CCJ for the Executive to follow the Constitution which states the Government resigns and serve in a caretaker role as is the norm in any country where a Government lost a No-Confidence Motion.Yours truly,Vishnu Bisram
…Stanley Ming returned as ChairmanWith Guyana preparing to enter new and uncharted waters in the extractive sector, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has had a new Board of Directors installed to steer the ship.GGMC Chairman Stanley MingAt the head of this Board is incumbent Chairman Stanley Ming. Also on the Board are Derrick Lawrence; Tom Dalgety; Euliene Watson; Vanda Radzic; Camilla Edwards; and the Commissioner of GGMC, Newell Dennison. A representative from each of the following organisations will be selected and added to the Board at a later date: the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), the Guyana Women Miners Association (GWMA), the National Mining Syndicate, the Guyana Gold Board, the Guyana Forestry Commission and a worker’s representative from the GGMC.The Board is also expected to include in its membership representatives from the National Toshaos Council (NTC), the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF), as ex officio members. The Board members will serve from March 1, 2019 to February 28, 2020.These appointments come at a time when total gold declarations for last year amounted to 613,073 ounces, which was 6.22 per cent lower than 2017 – 653,754 ounces were declared in 2017.Lowered expectationsGovernment had initially set a target of 720,000 ounces for 2017 but at the end of 2017 was only able declare 653,674 ounces, prompting Finance Minister Winston Jordan to dub the performance disappointing.An ambitious 800,000 ounces’ target was set for 2018. The foreign exchange value of exports processed on behalf of dealers and itself at the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) came to US$443,961,666.The appointments come at a time when a major gold company will be branching off into underground miningIt is understood that gold dealers Mohamed’s Enterprise, and El Dorado Trading finished first and second respectively in total declarations and exports of gold. Other dealers that contributed are: Pure Diamond, Dinar, Excel, Adamantium Metals, GBTI Property Holdings Inc, and Gold Bar Development.The appointments also come at a time when Canadian owned Guyana Goldfields is looking to branch off into underground mining. Last month, Goldfields was issued a permit by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to construct the underground mine.It is currently awaiting further approvals from the GGMC. In fact, Guyana Times observed equipment assembled at the site, waiting for the go ahead, during a recent visit.So far, Guyana Goldfields has invested US$300 million into its local operations. The underground mine is expected to cost US$25 million in the initial exploration stages. A further US$100 million is likely to be invested over the next 10 years of production.RevenueBut the company is optimistic of more than recovering that investment. Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Goldfields, Scott Caldwell, had been optimistic of the underground mines surpassing their previous operations. According to Caldwell, the underground well is likely to be a game changer when it comes to revenue.When asked about the application, Commissioner Dennison explained that the GGMC is in possession of Goldfields’ application and will soon know whether anything else is needed. He had made it clear that GGMC has no intention of delaying the process, but was only exercising its due diligence for such a venture.“From what I am aware, they have submitted [the documents]. I am of the view that we are in good way to be conducting the examination to determine whether we need anything more.”“To the extent that we ascertain that what is therein is sufficient representation of what they plan to do, and it is in keeping with our regulations and what we consider typical practices for these types of activities, we would then issue the permit,” Dennison said.