The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) has roused itself from its Rip Van Winkle-like slumber and announced a Code of Conduct for the political parties contesting the elections of March 2!! Imagine that: A Code of Conduct in place only 18 days before the elections!!
This is the first time that the ERC – launched in 2003 – has taken this initiative, even though it was constitutionally founded, constituted, and mandated to encourage better ethnic/ racial relations among us, the six peoples of Guyana!!
More specifically, the ERC was supposed to “Identify and analyse factors inhibiting the attainment of harmonious relations between ethnic groups, particularly barriers to the participation of any ethnic group in social, economic, commercial, financial, cultural and political endeavours; and recommend to the National Assembly or other relevant public or private sector bodies how these factors should be overcome”.
Now, since the 1960s, who could’ve missed that it’s during “elections time” that relations between the ethnic groups become strained to the point of snapping every now and then. You’d think the ERC would’ve stepped in to mediate relations from the word “Go!”, wouldn’t you?? Well, maybe better late than never.
Up until then, GECOM had been issuing these Codes of Conduct…but not that any of the parties had given any of those codes any mind. For instance, in 2015, they had political parties swear: “Our Party will ensure that our Candidates, Agents, members and supporters refrain from interfering in any way with the polling and counting proceedings, and avoid all attempts to spread false rumours about election activities.” Yet, when PNC activists had spread rumours that ballots were being collected in a PPP member’s house in Sophia, and that house was burnt to the ground, GECOM didn’t even slap that party on the wrist!!
So, here it is, the ERC had the 11 parties contesting the elections sign along the dotted line to “reject violence, harassment, intimidation, racism, discrimination, threats, and the destruction or defacing of property during the election season”.
One suspects all of this is prospective so that PNC Chairwoman Volda Lawrence’s call for a “nightshift” of her strong male supporters — to come out on elections night to “guard” the ballot boxes — would escape scrutiny. Shouldn’t the ERC at least have her explicitly announce there will be no “nightshift” necessary, since her ballot box guardians might be seen as “intimidatory”? After all, the call has been strongly defended by her partisans as being quite kosher!!
Anyhow, one would wish the ERC would get the details of its Code up on its website. For instance, has the ERC followed GECOM’s prohibition of candidates “from indulging in personal attacks and defamatory comments relative to opposing candidates”?
This might just reduce all the candidates to silence!!
Spare a thought for those small parties that mushroomed – not like atomic bombs, but like jumbie umbrellas!! – over the last year to “contest” the elections. Your Eyewitness was forced to place “contest” in scare quotes; ‘cause, really, shouldn’t these presumably well-meaning folks be muttering “No mas! No mas!” like Roberto Duran did when he was facing Sugar Ray Leonard in the prime of his career?? It’s “no contest” for the two big players in our political arena.
Those smaller parties were obviously influenced to figure that Guyana’s developed a “swing vote” by the success of the AFC in 2006. But, sadly for them, that same AFC destroyed that development when they cynically chose to become a doormat for the PNC, just so they could taste “pelf and power”. “Pelf” – dirty money – they got, but larwah rather than “power”, yet kept bending over for more!!
Anyhow, the minnows showed up for a debate – which was anything but!! All they did was to kvetch that the two big guns didn’t show up!!
Well, duh!! So, didn’t an audience!! No mas!!
The PNC’s so desperate to show they’re “developing” Guyana that they jumped the gun to turn the sod for another “Marriott” when the developer hasn’t even secured the franchise!!
That’s like the PNC: Announcing winning the elections before the polls!!