Private Sector lauds changes at GECOM

…calls for technically competent, impartial replacements

Stakeholders have commended the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for its decision to fire Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, his Deputy Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer for Region Four Clairmont Mingo – and have since demanded that a transparent process be embarked upon to find their replacements.
Two major Private Sectors bodies – the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) – were accredited observers at the March 2020 elections and witnessed the events that unfolded during the five-months impasse first-hand.
The embattled trio had attempted to sway the results of the 2020 elections and are now facing electoral fraud charges in the court. They were, however, dismissed on Thursday, following which the two entities lauded the decision.
On Friday, the PSC said the removal of the GECOM trio who attempted to derail the election process and the will of the Guyanese people, is a step in the right direction, and commended the Elections Commission for bringing this matter to closure.
“The Private Sector Commission from the beginning has publicly advocated that GECOM’s decisions be transparent and in compliance with the law and consistent with international standards and best practices. The PSC believes that this decision is a step in the right direction in restoring public confidence in the Guyana Elections Commission, especially as we approach the holding of Local Government Elections,” the missive detailed.
Nevertheless, the PSC recommitted to honour its role as a key stakeholder by promoting and advocating for a non-partisan, fair and democratic process in conducting elections in accordance with the law.
On the other hand, the GCCI recalled witnessing several acts of obfuscation, open defiance to the instructions of the Elections Commission and the courts, as well as partial actions during the electoral process.
“…as an organisation, the Chamber was pleased at the steps taken… to hold recalcitrant officers of the GECOM accountable… The GCCI would like to state that this is a step in the right direction for Guyana. This is based on our first-hand observation of the partisan and unprofessional actions of those officers during [the General and Region Elections] which placed Guyana at risk of entering into the league of pariah states,” the statement on Friday outlined.
Going forward, the GCCI said it looks forward to an open and transparent hiring process to fill the now vacant positions at the Elections Secretariat with “technically competent and impartial officers” to execute their statutory responsibilities.
Moreover, the Chamber went on to reiterate that these developments now represent an opportune time for Guyana to undertake the necessary electoral reforms, while also underscoring the urgency with which the process ought to be executed.
“Thus, the GCCI calls on the leadership of Guyana to ensure that the electoral reforms process is undertaken as a matter of highest priority so as to ensure that there is no risk of the recurrences of [General and Regional Elections] 2020. The GCCI anticipates the electoral reforms process to be one which has the input and involvement of a wide range of stakeholders, so as to solicit ideas on the strongest sets of reforms possible,” the GCCI stated.
According to the Chamber, it stands ready, as a partner in national development, to support the electoral reforms process and anticipates that this important undertaking will be similarly supported by all citizens of Guyana.
Last month, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, who is spearheading the reform process, disclosed that the first instalment of the draft electoral reforms have already been drawn up.
Nandlall said the draft document is currently with the party’s leaders for review.
“We have the electoral reforms. I’ve churned out one set of drafts already and that is with our political leaders. They are consulting on that and soon that will be made public,” the Legal Affairs Minister said during his programme.
Guyana Times understands that once all the draft documents are in place, it will be sent to stakeholders for review.
Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had previously explained that once completed, the draft amendments would be sent to the various political parties including the APNU/AFC Opposition, civil society bodies, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the international community for review. It will also be available for the public to give their input before it is finalised and presented in the National Assembly, where again it will be debated upon by both the Government and parliamentary Oppositions.
The need for both electoral and constitutional reforms was underscored following last year’s March 2 General and Regional Elections, which led to a five-month tumultuous impasse before the Irfaan Ali-led PPP/C government finally took office on August 2, 2020.
It was previously reported that the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), which contains laws specific to the conduct of elections and election-related issues in Guyana, is being ironed out to remove ambiguous provisions and include penalties for persons attempting to carry out electoral fraud.
The ongoing reforms is intended to tighten the legal process and rectify the deficiencies that led to the post-election events in 2020. Another important component of the reforms would be the hiring process at the Election Commission. (G8)