As the calls continue to pour in for the caretaker A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration in general, and caretaker President David Granger in particular, to accept the will of the people as expressed in the recount of the votes cast in the March 2 elections, they have shown no sign that they are prepared to do so. These calls have come from practically every government in the Western world – all of them our traditional allies – either individually or from their regional blocs, reminding the recalcitrant leaders that they are heading down an anti-democratic cul-de-sac from which there can be no retreat.
As we have pointed out in this space, Granger is exploiting recourse to the courts on matters that even his most fervent supporters know are specious and as such, can only engender cynicism towards our legal system, which is the final bulwark against rule by the law of the jungle.
It was he who initiated a proposal for a recount of the votes after it was discovered that Mingo had egregiously interfered with the tabulation of the Region 4 Statement of Polls (SoPs). Yet he permitted a candidate for his party to bring suit in the High Court to stop the said recount. Not being successful, he appointed his de facto second-in-command Joseph Harmon as head of the national COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), from which position he mandated that the recount process drag out for a month, obviously hoping that the Caricom Observation Team would withdraw because of the extended timeframe in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. The NCTF had already denied permission for the Carter Center to return to witness the recount.
When finally, after daily exhibitions by his minions highlighting their wild allegations of “irregularities” during the recount process, when the numbers were finally compiled to show they were substantively identical to the original numbers gleaned from the SoPs provided by the PPP, they insisted that the results were not “credible”. They once again took recourse to the courts – this time in a transparent illustration of “forum shopping” – to the Appellate Court, seeking to stop the declaration based on the recount numbers that had been certified as “valid votes” by the GECOM Secretariat Staff, the Caricom observers and other stakeholders – with the exception of the APNU/AFC agents.
What Granger and the People’s National Congress (PNC) were doing was to avoid the High Court, which was the forum where complaints about the validity of elections were constitutionally mandated to be heard upon the filing of an elections petition. The PNC, in fact, had followed this procedure after the 1997 elections, which they disputed and it was the present Chairwoman of GECOM, Justice Claudette Singh, then on the High Court bench, who heard the elections petition from PNC member Esther Perreira.
In a move that could only shed opprobrium of the Appellate Court, as was the case when they agreed with the PNC’s outlandish claim that 33 was not the majority of 65, the PNC was now arguing that the Appellate Court had exclusive and final jurisdiction via Article 177 (4) of the Constitution. In a split decision, the Appellate Court agreed with them and issued an anti-climactic order that only “valid votes” from the recount could be used for tabulation.
Not unexpectedly, the assumption was that the valid votes certified by the recount process would be used to show that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had won the elections. But even though a three-day stay had been ordered by the Appellate Court, GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield rushed to produce a report of what he unilaterally declared were “valid and credible votes”, which disqualified 115,000 voters and now purported that APNU/AFC were the winners.
It is the firm belief of this newspaper that the CCJ, where the matter has now been brought, will once again cut through the “gamesmanship” of the PNC and Granger, and deliver justice to the long-suffering Guyanese people on Wednesday.
This time, with a “gloss” since the PNC is waiting to exploit any perceived ambiguity.