1973 rigged elections must now be questioned again

Dear Editor,
The late Malcolm X, a courageous advocate for the rights of Black Americans,  once said, “I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil”.
Following the defeat of the Granger-led APNU/AFC Administration on December 21, 2018, by a vote of no-confidence, it is now clear that when it suits the President and the Government to ignore constitutional precepts, it is prepared to do so. On the one hand, the President says he respects the ruling of the CCJ and the Constitution, “As far as I’m concerned, I have always operated within the ambit of the Constitution… I have never gone outside of the Constitution”. But then based on his actions, he is engaging in deliberate tactics to stall the appointment of a new Chairman of GECOM and to further delay elections which should have taken place four months ago.
But regardless of how innocent he thinks he is, or wants us to believe, there are documented evidence of the President’s blatant disregard for our Constitution from the moment the APNU/AFC formed the Government in May of 2015.
Article 226 (1) of the Constitution states: “In the exercise of its functions under the Constitution, a Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority”.
In May 2015, the then Junior Social Protection Minister Simona Broomes instructed the Secretary of the Public Service Commission that “all interviews and meetings of the Commission are to cease forthwith until further as instructed by His Excellency, the President, David Arthur Granger’s notice”.
This was challenged in the High Court, and Justice Chang ruled that the Public Service Commission, a Commission established by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, in the exercise of its functions, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority. The Chief Justice called it a violation of Article 226 of the Constitution of the Cooperative of Guyana and ruled that it is unlawful, null, void and of no legal effect.
Then in June 2016, the President again deliberately violated the Constitution when he instructed Minister of State Joseph Harmon to issue a directive to the Police Service Commission (PSC) in his name, instructing the PSC to halt the police promotions process. This vulgar and authoritarian attempt by the President to trample upon the independence and functional autonomy of the Police Service Commission, a constitutional agency, was again challenged in the High Court.
Again on October 8, 2016, in a public statement released to the press, trade unionist Carvil Duncan said that he was asked by President David Granger in February of that year, to resign as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and from other constitutional commissions. Duncan related that he was invited to meet with the President and the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, and was asked to submit his resignation. Harmon, he said, offered him a suitable financial package for his exit. And during the course of the meeting, Duncan reported that the President said no less than three times, “that he does not want any blood on his carpet”. Having rejected their offer, the Government embarked upon a manifestly unlawful course of action. While certain criminal charges were pending in the Magistrate’s Court against Duncan, the Government decided to trigger a constitutional process to remove him from office. Without a hearing, President Granger set up a ‘kangaroo tribunal’ to remove the embattled trade unionist as Chairman of the Public Service Commission. But by virtue of being Chairman of the PSC, Carvil Duncan was
ex-officio, a member of the Judicial Service Commission and the Police Service Commission, institutions created by the Constitution and endowed with the fundamental role and function of guarding against executive abuses.
As Chairman of the PSC, Carvil Duncan enjoyed all these constitutional protections.
It is obvious that this President demonstrates absolute disrespect and disregard for the letter and spirit of the Constitution, and continues to contravene its provisions with impunity.
His unilateral decision to appoint the 84-year-old retired Justice James Patterson, a man with ties to the PNC, as the GECOM Chairman, led to the CCJ ruling that the process of his appointment was flawed. But Granger is determined to stay in power at all costs and is hell-bent on once again unilaterally appointing a new GECOM Chairman with one thing in mind… to rig the next General and Regional Elections whenever it is called. This troubling behaviour evokes memories of Guyana under the dictatorship of the PNC, whose leader David Granger idolises till now.
According to leaked confidential diplomatic cables sent on July 19, 1973, by the US Embassy in Georgetown to US Missions in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, expressing amazement at the level of bare-faced, blatant rigging that took place during the 1973 General Election, “In attempting its forecast of this election (Ref A), Embassy had not really expected PNC to abandon all pretence of honest election. In event, however, this is what appears to have happened. Whether out of fear, confusion, inefficiency, exuberance or sheer lack of coordination, rigging does seem to have gotten out of hand.”
“From all reports, ballot boxes were delivered by a variety of means Monday night to Guyana Defence Force (GDF) headquarters in Georgetown where they remained under armed guard for upwards of 10 hours before vote counting began. PPP evidently succeeded only too well in alarming PNC by its last-minute exhortations to its followers to prevent removal of ballot boxes to three central counting locations. [Evidently], plans to engage in ballot-box stuffing and switching while boxes being delivered, as had apparently been the original intention, were abandoned and stuffing and switching seems to have taken place while the boxes [were] held at GDF headquarters before delivery to three counting locations.”
Readers may recall I had repeatedly demanded that David Granger account for his role in the 1973 seizure of ballot boxes by the GDF which gave the PNC a two-third majority in Parliament. On Election Day 1973, GDF soldiers opened fire at Number 63 Village on the Corentyne, killing 45-year-old Parmanand Bholanauth and wounding several others. Jagan Ramessar, a 17-year-old youth was seriously wounded during the shooting, but instead of taking him to the hospital, the police and GDF soldiers transported him to the Number 51 Police Station where they refused to provide him with medical attention. He died there after being further physically brutalised by Police and soldiers. This is the same rigged election referred to earlier in one of the leaked diplomatic cables sent by the US Embassy in Georgetown. As such, Granger’s role in the 1973 rigged elections must now be questioned again.
David Granger never fully explained his involvement in the seizure of those ballot boxes although he was at the time a political liaison officer to Forbes Burnham. In his capacity, how could he not have known of the PNC plans to rig the election? Surely Burnham would have relied on his support to subvert the army. He later defended the killings of those defenceless civilians by his GDF squaddies in a March 18, 2011, article in the Guyana Chronicle, “Granger endorsed the soldiers’ actions on elections day 1973”.
According to the article, “In 2003, in Chile, Mr Granger presented a paper entitled “Civil Violence, Domestic Terrorism and Internal Security in Guyana, 1953 – 2003”, wherein he referred to the sinking of MV Sun Chapman when 40 African Guyanese were killed as “the most alarming slaughter of the ‘disturbances’ between the period 1953 – 2004.
Yet, nowhere in this work were the beatings, rape and murder of hundreds of innocent Indian Guyanese residing in Wismar ever mentioned. Indians were forced out of their own homes, which were then permanently occupied by the perpetrators; yet this was not considered in Granger’s writing of the history of civil violence in Guyana.
If this is not blatant racism and intellectual dishonesty on the part of Mr Granger then what is?”
Isn’t it ironic that on June 27, 1974, a US diplomatic cable on the Guyana National Service described the then GDF Major David Granger as having the reputation of being an ideologue and “anti-East Indian racist”?
But the Chronicle article continued, “How can shooting and then allowing two men to bleed to death simply because they demanded that the ballots be counted at the place of polls rather than taken away by the GDF be endorsed as “splendid” and “discretionary” behaviour?
Where was the “discretion” in murdering these two young men for protesting their democratic right to have their votes counted? What was “really credible” in the army taking the ballot boxes to the GDF base?”
Listening to the rhetoric emanating from David Granger and some of his Ministers, it is obvious they have no intention of obeying the rulings of the CCJ and Article 106 (6) and 106 (7) of our Constitution.
I welcome the joint statement by Western diplomats urging the expeditious adherence to the rule of law and the relevant provisions of the Constitution, but they need to follow this up by inflicting severe personal sanctions such as revocation of visas and the freezing of all foreign bank accounts for “all invoked actors” who seem determined to take this country down the same road as Venezuela, a country led by a dictator, whose corrupt policies have now caused the once oil-rich nation to be bankrupted and lawless. Guyana must never be allowed to return to those dark days under the PNC/APNU dictatorship.
The consequential orders from the CCJ are as clear as daylight: Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7) have been triggered. The President and his Cabinet must resign but remain as a caretaker Government with diminished powers to provide essential services and to prepare for elections. No more “ministerial outreach” to squander taxpayers’ money on political campaigning; no more borrowing to add to the national debt; and no awarding of major contracts. And above all, elections must be called within three months, that is, by September 18, 2019, period!

Harry Gill
PPP/C Member of Parliament