India announced this week it will hold general elections exactly one month from now, with more than 900 million people voting. Guyana has been under notice for a general election since the passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM) on December 21, 2018, for elections to be held within 90 days, by March 21, 2019, in accordance with the Constitution. David Granger and A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) are ensuring these mandated elections will not be anytime soon. Why is it that India can hold an election with more than 900 million voters in just one month and Guyana cannot hold an election within three months, with less than 400,000 voters?
GECOM is supposed to be ready for an election at any time. When Local Government Elections were announced, GECOM had less than three months to prepare and it efficiently did so. This was less than four months ago. What has happened in four months that now renders GECOM incapable of holding an election?
GECOM has been illegally given the power to set an election date. According to David Granger and APNU/AFC, an election cannot be held without GECOM establishing the date. But the Constitution is clear, setting the date is entirely the obligation of the President. The NCM, on December 21, obligated the President to set that date within 90 days or by March 21 or if he failed to do so, to set it with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition through a two-thirds majority in Parliament. For the President to defer to GECOM for the date is reckless and clearly a total violation of the Constitution. While the President can legitimately ask for GECOM’s advice on the date, that advice has to be within the constitutional deadline.
The consequence is that in about eight days, Guyana will have an illegal government and the President becomes a dictator. The Granger-led APNU/AFC has deliberately run down the clock. The President is not an innocent bystander as his coalition members play wicked games. The President, in fact, is the architect of a new era of dictatorship and rigged elections in Guyana. President Granger did warn us he aspired to bring back Burnhamism to Guyana. In 2015, in paying tribute to Forbes Burnham, President Granger vowed openly that his goal and his dreams are to ensure Burnhamism reigns in Guyana again.
His autocratic non-constitutional appointment of GECOM’s Chair was proof he was serious. It was clear then that President Granger was not only determined to bring back the PNC-era dictatorship to Guyana, but was determined to use the old PNC strategy to establish and sustain such a dictatorship. President Granger showed his hand when he arbitrarily hand-picked the GECOM Chair. Just like Burnham did, Granger wanted to ensure he had a hand-picked Chairman of the Commission to do his bidding. James Patterson in his short term of squatting as GECOM’s Chair, thus far, has shown total fealty to his boss.
Burnham’s dictatorship was built around rigged elections conducted by a corrupt elections commission, controlled by a Chairman specifically chosen by the President to do his bidding. In the Burnham years, that chairman was Judge Harold Bollers. He ensured all elections were so rigged, international organisations deemed them more warped than barbed wire. Today, like Burnham did before, Granger has James Patterson as his Harold Bollers to ensure rigged elections. When Granger rejected 18 qualified and distinguished Guyanese nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, after broad national consultations, he signalled his intention for Burnham-era rigged elections. While the PPP objected strenuously, most people remained quiet, giving Granger a pass, thinking that rigged elections in this era are impossible.
APNU/AFC judicial shenanigans to avoid the election represent a distraction. It is GECOM that is being used, just like Burnham did, to stop the elections for now. GECOM is also being used to prepare a voters list that, like the Burnham years, was heavily padded. The new house-to-house registration is for GECOM, with the help of the Ministry of Citizenship, to pad the voters list and rig the elections, just like the PNC did before. This is why most Guyanese are suspicious of the priority given to Haitian visas and the extension of their stay.
It was always the intention to rig elections with GECOM as the instrument. That was the purpose of the Patterson appointment. The arbitrary conferment for GECOM to set an election date, adding salt to the injury, is a brazen confirmation, Granger and APNU/AFC are not playing games, but solidifying a dictatorship. To those who were silent on the appointment of James Patterson, the struggle to stop dictatorship is now far more onerous. The Guyanese people are collateral damage again.