By: SASE Singh; M.Sc. – Finance, ACCA
How can India prepare 900 million persons for elections in 30 days, but Guyana cannot prepare 0.5 million people for elections after almost 4 months? In India, their Elections Commission, an independent institution, guards and maintains its reputation for efficiency, toughness, and rectitude. They have a system comprised of 3 Commissioners, who are all retired public service officers. These Commissioners are prohibited from drawing a salary from anywhere else but from their version of GECOM. They are paid US$3,500 per month, with the Chairman getting closer to US$4,500 per month.
On the other hand, I was advised that the Chairman of GECOM draws some US$9,000 per month plus benefits. Where is the value for money? If we are to reflect on the current GECOM Commissioners, these people, by choice, have multiple income streams, and thus are not in a position to exclusively do GECOM’s work the way it ought to be done. If truth is told, every one of the Commissioners serves dual masters, which makes them ineffective at elections supervision, and not independent, at best. As an example, is Desmond Trotman independent in his mind? He works at the Ministry of the Presidency and also serves GECOM. He can never do his GECOM job efficiently. On the PPP side, it is the same thing.
Worse yet, Mr. Granger unilaterally appointed the Chairman; thus this Chairman owes everything to Mr. Granger, and thus cannot be objective and independent. Therefore, we must not be surprised if he continues to act like a PNC man in GECOM.
If one reflects on GECOM, one would observe that it is an organisation conceived in bias, prejudice, and discrimination. The PPP and the PNC did a major injustice to Guyana when they agreed on this format for GECOM. This nation will always be at war with itself if this status quo continues.
I would suggest a model that better serves the idea of neutrality. How about one Government party member, one member from all the Opposition parties, and the Chairman being chosen by the Chancellor of the Judiciary from a list suggested by the Inter-Religious Organisation (Hindu, Islamic and Christian faiths)? The final two members should be: one member from civil society (business, the professional community, trade unions, etc.) and the final member being a female Amerindian youth under 35 years of age, who is selected by the Rights of the Child Commission. After all, the under 35-year-olds in Guyana constitute some 60 percent of the population today, they ought to matter.
If one looks at GECOM today, it is nothing but a caravan of geriatrics, save and except for Sase Gunraj. None of the GECOM Commissioners is from the under 35-year-old group. And if you take Sase Gunraj out of the equation, the situation becomes worse at GECOM, where representatives from 8 percent of Guyana speak for 100 percent of the people.
This is just ridiculous!
So, clearly, the people who constitute over 60 percent of the population (the under 35-year-olds) do not have a voice in GECOM. It is this kind of exclusion and marginalisation that facilitates and feeds a situation where the top 10 positions in the GECOM operational leadership emit a perception as nothing but an extension of Congress Place.
Think carefully as to why Vishnu Persaud — an extremely competent, independent elections expert — had to be pushed aside to make way for someone who is still learning the job. If one reflects on the output from Ms. Roxanne Myers to date, she comes across as grossly unfit and unsuitable for the role, but yet she keeps her position because incompetence is something to be celebrated in GECOM.
Unfortunately, when in power, the PPP failed to take account of the bigger picture: that one day they could be out of power, and did not influence measures to make GECOM more resilient from external political interference. They failed at this task miserably as the then Government, and today this nation has to suffer because we have a PNC-led Government that is bent on destroying what little independence is left in GECOM.
History has taught us that the PNC will never play fair when it comes to elections management, because that party does not have a history of winning elections on its own. If it were not for the UF in 1964 and the AFC in 2015, the PNC would have been permanently in the Opposition, because of the way it is constructed — as a racially biased party that openly discriminates against those who are not its kith and kin. One only has to listen to Volda Lawrence and one gets a gist of the PNC’s DNA: she is only “hiring PNC people”.
So while India’s Elections Commission, with 3 members, takes 900 million people to the polls in 30 days, the goat has bitten Guyana.