Home Letters GECOM should never be allowed to conduct another election under present Secretariat
One year ago, on Friday 10th January 2020, GECOM had its Nomination Day for the 2020 General and Regional Elections. It was on this day, at around 10:00am, that the political parties and the nation at large received some inkling as to the skulduggery that was to come from the GECOM senior staff.
In preparation for this day, and having been told that political parties would be accepted into the Umana Yana site, where GECOM would accept the lists of candidates from the contesting parties on a first come-first accepted basis, two (2) of the newer/smaller parties camped out in front of the Umana Yana from the Wednesday evening, three (3) days before the actual event. The New Movement (TNM) arrived first at around 6:00pm, followed by the United Republican Party (URP) sometime between 7:00 and 8:00pm. A New and United Guyana (ANUG) joined the campout line on the Thursday morning at approximately 6:30am. The Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and Change Guyana (CG) also eventually joined the campout later during the Thursday.
Please note: at no time did the ruling coalition of A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) join the campout or join the line of political parties waiting patiently to register with GECOM.
On the morning of Friday 10th January, Nominations Day, members of the Guyana Police Force arrived and erected barricades in front of the Umana Yana. They then told all the political party representatives, who were keeping their space in the line, to remove to behind the barricades to avoid congestion at the entrance to the Umana Yana. The party reps all did as told, with lots of jokes and good humour.
Shortly after, Mr Lowenfield, GECOM CEO, and his party of staff arrived and spoke to us. He explained the procedure for registering for the Nominations Day event, which was to go to the guard hut of the Umana Yana and give our information to the security guard, who would enter it into a book. This would be used to determine the order in which the political parties would be allowed into the Umana Yana compound to register and present their lists of candidates along with the required signatures. This order was important, because if a person had signed for two political parties, the party which had registered first would be allowed to keep the signature, and the other party would have to find a replacement signature. Finding a replacement signature may have meant the political party having to go back into the area to find another person to sign on their sheet.
The party reps hurried across the road, and I entered the guard hut first. The guard opened the book to receive the information and, low and behold, there was the APNU/AFC Representative’s name, Carol Joseph, already written in the first line and stating she had arrived on Tuesday at 18:30hrs. When I objected to this, the guard just shrugged his shoulders and gave a look that said, “What can I do? I am just following instructions; don’t quarrel with me.”
As I was objecting loudly to the guard and the nearby Police officers, along with the other party reps, Mr Lowenfield entered the gate and I called out to him for an explanation as to how the APNU/AFC’s rep could be listed first, when they had not arrived until that very morning. Mr Lowenfield replied that there was nothing he could do about it, and kept on walking away.
Nominations Day is an event organised and controlled by GECOM, and Mr Lowenfield was the CEO of GECOM. Therefore, the ultimate authority was with him. He therefore had wilfully allowed the APNU/AFC representative’s name to be written in the book before the other party reps. At the time, this incident may have seemed to be a small matter, but, looking back, that was the moment when we should have known and be prepared for all of the GECOM and APNU/AFC skulduggery that was to come cascading down on Guyana.
I am calling on the Chairman of GECOM to investigate this and other incidents of misbehaviour committed by the GECOM Secretariat and its senior staff. Any confirmed incident of misbehaviour should be dealt with firmly, including dismissal where necessary. GECOM is no longer a trusted organization, and its good name has been brought into ill repute. The Secretariat needs to be cleansed of persons found unworthy. An internal investigation is urgently needed, and evidence found can and should be used to dismiss or penalise errant personnel, including the CEO, the DCEO, and other senior staff.
I am taking this opportunity to say that Guyana and GECOM should NEVER be allowed to conduct another election of any kind under the present management of the Secretariat.