The story of our inexorable descent into the limbo of becoming a laughing stock in the global state system began with the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion (NCM) on Dec 21, 2018. After conceding defeat in the Parliamentary Chambers, where the historic vote was carried, PM Nagamootoo and PNC Chair Volda Lawrence boasted that this was a vindication of the coalition’s democratic credentials. No Confidence Motions, they pointed out, were an integral aspect of Parliamentary democracy in our Westminster based system in that it compels a government to be accountable to the representatives of the people, without the procrustean imperatives of the party whip.
David Granger, then President, agreed with this assessment of the NCM and announced he was ready to face the electorate. GECOM also announced they would be ready to conduct the mandated elections within three months (March 21, 2019), since the list of electors used for the recently concluded Local Government Elections was still valid. But thrown a legal straw that claimed the 33 votes which carried the NCM in the 65-member House, was not a majority because “half-men” had to be created and then conjoined, the APNU/AFC took recourse to the courts all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). They were veritably laughed out and the NCM declared to have been validly carried.
But the humiliation of our country and its citizens did not just reverberate within the Caribbean. Because of the recent massive oil-find and the fact that our Common Law deliberations are shared with the rest of the Commonwealth, the ridiculousness of a government that was voted into office by a majority of 33 to 32 claiming that 33 was not a majority of 65 went around the world and back. It credentialled us as being a card-carrying member of the “sh*thole” fraternity.
One would have thought, therefore, that the PNC/APNU/AFC combine would have considered salvaging this reputation just when we were about to acquire the wherewithal to finance our own development out of our hole. But it was not to be. As the world knows by now, the combine subsequently attempted to blatantly rig the elections, which they had been forced to finally schedule a year after it should have been held, through legal guerrilla warfare. The denouement arrived tried to rig this election through the manipulation of a simple tabulation of the SOP’s for Reg 4, in the presence of the international observers and the diplomatic community.
It would have been one thing if the rigging had been attempted, say, via having phantom voters at the polling stations. But after counting more than half of the Reg 4 SOP’s to everyone’s satisfaction by having individual GECOM’s SOP’s compared to those in the possession of party representatives, to suddenly switch to “spreadsheets” compiled behind the scenes, was too much. In the uproar precipitated by this rigging stratagem, international observers were as incensed as the opposition political parties. The picture of the ABCE ambassadors stalking out of the counting center was worth the proverbial thousand words. The PNC/APNU/AFC recourse to the courts mirrored their post NCM manoeuvres and further sullied the country’s reputation.
But no one thought the comedy of heavy-handed actions to hold on to power – for instance, to drag out the Court-ordered recount for over a month with no end in sight – could be topped. But topped it was by the just revealed hiring of a Washington lobbyist by the head of Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, on behalf of the government of Guyana. Inter alia, caretaker President Granger and Harmon were listed as “US Citizens”, which poses an insurmountable obstacle to them running for office in Guyana.
If, in fact, they are not – as Granger claims for himself – then they would have committed a Federal crime for which they could be prosecuted.
But it is more than high time that this denigration of our country’s reputation by the PNC/APNU/AFC combine be halted. The GECOM Chair must finally rise to the occasion.