GECOM reforms are imperative for democracy

The Government of Guyana has made it abundantly clear – reforms at GECOM is a priority. These reforms represent an imperative for GECOM, for democracy and for the overall development of Guyana. The present system at GECOM is a threat to Guyana and no responsible government, no responsible stakeholder, can justifiably object to reforms before another election. For that reason, the time for change is now so that all scheduled elections can be held on time with a system that removes, as far as possible, those cracks in the system that permit persons inside GECOM collaborating with persons outside of GECOM to rig elections.
There was the suspicion that the 2015 election results were based on some manipulations. The election petition is still to be heard. For the March 2020 elections, an ugly, shameful attempt to rig the elections played out for the world to watch. Never in history was an election rigging attempt so brazen, so clumsy, broadcast for the world to see, in the full view of shocked world leaders.
The only persons who oppose reforms are those who were involved in the unsuccessful attempt to rig the elections. Now senior officials of GECOM, the most senior in management, and officials of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition are in court facing serious fraud and conspiracy charges. Until two weeks ago, shockingly, all those senior officers of GECOM continued to manage GECOM and elections matters. Since Guyana has continuous registration of citizens, these same officers charged with trying to rig elections were preparing for a new round of registration.
This is unheard of, persons charged with fraud and conspiracy in the key activity of the organisation allowed to carry on business as usual. It took almost 10 months for the GECOM Commission to act sensibly, reasonably, to restore its integrity. Finally, the Chief Elections Officer, who is the CEO of GECOM, and his deputy and the returning officer of Region Four, among those presently defending themselves in court, have been sent on paid leave until GECOM decides whether to retain them or not. There are no ifs, buts and ands, they must go.
It is unbelievable that there are persons in Guyana who fight to keep these persons on the job. If GECOM refuses to do the right thing, then GECOM is determined to retain the capacity for election rigging in Guyana. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has never supported and never tried rigging an election. The only party that has ever tried rigging an election is the People’s National Congress (PNC) (now APNU/AFC).
They have not only tried to rig elections; they are regarded as the worst riggers of elections in the world. They rigged elections for almost three decades in this country and in every election, they have tried to find some way to manipulate election results.
There was always the intention to rig the March 2, 2020 elections. Recall David Granger’s illegal appointment of James Patterson to be the GECOM Chair. Granger brought in a man who had long passed retirement age, older than many persons Granger sent off on the basis they were too old to serve. Recall the example of Justice Kennard who was sent off because he was too old to serve. But Patterson was sent to GECOM for one purpose – rig the 2020 elections. One of his first acts was the infamous sending-off of Vishnu Persaud, the then Deputy Chief Elections Officer.
As hard as they tried to not bluntly call it what it was, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) could not hide the ugly truth – Vishnu Persaud’s contract was not renewed because of only one fact – he was not the right race and perceived, therefore, to be a PPP supporter. Patterson himself admitted he did not know, never met and had no complaints against Persaud. In the end, Patterson voted to appoint a lady who had never worked at GECOM, had no experience and was less qualified than Persaud. Today she is in front of the courts charged with conspiracy to rig the elections. The truth is that those who wanted to rig elections were not confident that Vishnu Persaud would cooperate with them to rig elections.
But Ms Myers is not only in front of the courts charged with fraud and conspiracy to rig the March 2, 2020 elections. Ms Myers was one of the persons who refused to meet with the ERC. She never made herself available to the ERC, a constitutional commission, and in so doing, she violated the Constitution of Guyana. She was not the only one.
Patterson himself, at the time he served illegally as GECOM’s Chair, promised, but never delivered documents. Other GECOM officers, including the Human Resources Officer, refused to meet the ERC. GECOM officers cannot be allowed to run wild. They did, not just during the March 2, 2020 elections and months after, as they tried to pervert the results, but also many months before the elections. There was an unholy alliance at GECOM. Reforms must not only bring this alliance to an end; they must make future attempts to manipulate elections impossible.