The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has a sordid history. It was a tool in the hands of the PNC in rigging elections in the pre-1992 days.
One of the deals brokered by the Carter Centre in the early 1990s was to make GECOM independent. That was done in the way the Commission was composed. The formula, three Commissioners appointed by the President in his own judgment. Three others through the recommendations of the Leader of the Opposition. The Chairperson to come from a consensus mechanism whereby the President would choose a person from a list presented to him by the Leader of the Opposition.
GECOM was also made into a constitutional Body in May 2000 to ensure that elections could be held whenever required and in a professional manner. That arrangement worked well and gave us free and fair elections from 1992-2011.
The behaviour of GECOM today is very disturbing. This Body, given powers by our Constitution, has done nothing to discharge its responsibility since the passing of the no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018. By its actions, it is sabotaging the will of the people and objectively imposing an undemocratic regime on the Guyanese people.
This statement is not made lightly. I am convinced that GECOM is ready and can conduct elections in less than ninety days. That Body has been set up to deal with situations as we have now.
In a previous article, I had pointed out that since 2005 GECOM has been:
Doing continuous registration. I also know of persons who died whose names were removed from the list. This is a continuous process. This was happening up to very recently.
Moreover, immediately after the no-confidence motion, Public Relations Officer, Guyana Elections Commission, Ms Yolanda Ward assured the nation that GECOM was ready to conduct elections to the highest standards.
On December 27, 2018, in an interview with the Chronicle, Ms Ward was quoted as saying; “With this no-confidence motion, it means once a date is set, it will be held (the elections) … it is our constitutional mandate to conduct the General and Regional Elections and Local Government Elections (LGEs) … so whether it is in the 90 days then it is GECOM responsibility to conduct elections …”
In the same article, she is further quoted to have said; “…what the law says GECOM has to do we will have to follow, it is conducted within the confines of the law … our guiding principle will be what it is rooted in chapter 103 … critical will be the timeline which we will use to guide us to ensure we stay within the specific timeline…”
She is also reported to have told Guyana Times on the same date: “… If that is the decision then we will have to ensure that those elections are held as required …”
Ms Ward is not alone in her views that the elections could be held within the time stipulated by the Constitution. The United Nations team that was here last year at the request of GECOM on a scoping exercise implied the same. True, it did not say so specifically because this situation caused by the “no-confidence” motion did not yet arise.
However, in their recommendations, they made no reference to any need for a new house-to-house registration.
Clearly then, the talk about new house-to-house registration is only an excuse to extend the life of this regime. It is a red herring. What is even more disturbing is that GECOM appears to be changing its position as the PNC-led APNU/AFC positions change.
Recall that both the President and Prime Ministers made statements saying that they would respect the Constitution. It was at the same time that Ms Ward made her bold assertions.
Now that they, by their actions, seem to have moved away from that position, they are doing all they can to frustrate the process.
GECOM, in concert, has moved away from its position. Now they have been avoiding the holding of meetings and also joining with the PNC-led APNU/AFC in their efforts to hang on to power. It is sabotaging the people’s will.
I am of the firm view that GECOM can hold the elections in time. Indeed, the time that they had to conduct the 2015 elections was also three months (90 days) and it was done.
These situations were anticipated and laws were made to put them into effect. The same Article that Ms Ward referred to is explicit on it. Article 103 (5) states that GECOM has the power to reduce the time for certain transactions if need be. For instance, the time for nomination day can be reduced so too is the time for “Claims and Objections”.
Therefore, it is clear that GECOM’s secretariat seems to be facilitating the PNC-led regime to frustrate the will of the Guyanese people.
Once more, GECOM is subjugating itself to the dictates of the PNC/APNU regime. This is a throwback to the PNC dictatorial days.
I believe that it is criminal to deliberately act in a manner that subverts the Constitution. There should be serious consequences for this offence. GECOM’s senior officers must be held responsible for this sabotage.
I wonder if the leadership of the Government and GECOM are aware of the dangers they are placing all the people of our country. The Head of State is a historian, but he seems to have learnt little from the history of rigged elections in Guyana. He seems not to care that his Administration is presiding over a process of the subversion of our Constitution.
Actions such as these inevitably lead to damaging the economy and condemning masses of people to a life of poverty and misery.
Instead of returning to the sordid period of undemocratic Government, we should be putting that era behind us. We must move forward.
The only way to do so is to respect our Constitution and hold free and fair elections now.
There is still time for GECOM to redeem themselves.