Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke has charged that Grenada’s Democracy is under threat with the failure of Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenade to appoint a new Supervisor of Elections.
The post has become vacant with the surprise and sudden decision on March 31 of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Aaron Francois to demit the office.
Francois reportedly tendered his resignation for “personal and professional” reasons in the wake of the move by government to replace the IT person at the office Rupert McBurnie and to replace him with someone said to be a close relative of a member of the current administration.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Sen. Burke stated that the person sent to take charge of the IT operations has not been reporting to anyone there for the past three weeks.
“That person entered that office and filled that position under a cloud of dust and this may raise questions that what he is doing there and to whom he is reporting, nobody is there, he is doing what he has to do,” Burke said.
According to Burke the current situation at the Electoral Office is a direct blow to Grenada’s Constitution as it states specifically that the office of the Supervisor of Elections should not be left vacant.
He said that Section 35, sub section 1 of the constitution “makes it unmistakably clear there shall be a Supervisor of Elections whose duty it shall be to exercise general supervision over the registration of voters and elections of the members of the House of Representatives and over the conduct of elections”.
“There is no if or but, there are no discretionary elements, there is no choice in the matter, there shall be a Supervisor of Elections, in other words it is the constitutional requirement that at every stage along the way somebody must be there in the office as holding the office of Supervisor of Elections,” he added.
Burke stressed that Congress is of the view that the failure of Dame Cecile to appoint a Supervisor of Elections is a clear indication that she is virtually abandoning her responsibility.
He noted that the Constitution makes it quite clear under Section 2 that the Governor General in her own deliberate judgment shall appoint a Supervisor of Elections.
“The Governor General is the person under the constitution that has the responsibility to fulfill the constitutional responsibility and she has not done so without offering any reason or explanation to the public as to why it is today, there is no Supervisor of Elections or acting Supervisor of Elections in Grenada.
“This flies in the face of the constitution and this marks another of the 20 sins that the NNP has committed against the constitution, the laws, the protocols, the convention, the norms of our country, this is yet another constitutional violation from the face of everything that is being spoken about.
Burke believes that Dame Cecile is fully aware that the Office of Supervisor of Elections ought not to be vacant at any time and demonstrated this when she installed Francois as replacement for the dismissed Judy Benoit.
He said: “On the day that Ms Judy Benoit was dismissed as a Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Francois was appointed on that same day. In fact according to the information we have, Mr. Francois was sitting in the office of the Governor General when Ms Benoit was dismissed because the Governor General understood that the office could never be left vacant so before the dismissal was done, somebody was already designated to fill the office.
“Why is it that the Governor General understood the importance of ensuring that the office not remain vacant when Ms Judy Benoit was being removed but today after three weeks no steps have been taken to ensure that somebody is in that office,” he added.
The NDC political leader pointed out that if Dame Cecile fails to now understand her role in the matter then she is not prepared to act in the true spirit as Governor General.
Burke claimed that the lack of a Supervisor of Elections has resulted in the office running into havoc.
“The reports that we are having right now is that some of the Registrations Officers are not showing up to work on time at Registration Offices. Many of the offices are opening very late and in some cases are not opening at all and part of the reason for that is that there is nobody to report to so people are doing what they want.
“Imagine a workplace where there is no boss, so if you come to work late nobody tells you anything because we are all at the same level and nobody is reportable to anybody.
“Nobody is above the constitution, nobody is above the law, the Governor General has a responsibility to this nation to appoint a Supervisor of Elections or somebody to act in that area.
“There are too many doubts and suspicions surrounding what is going on and we have already raised these concerns that something is afoot that we are not happy about”.