This political crisis has had a major positive booster shot after a legitimate GECOM Chairperson was appointed. I want to put on record my deep appreciation to the international diplomatic community, the Guyanese diaspora, and the local private sector for coming to the aid of the local population. It is clear that some members of the local civil society have lost their testicular fortitude in this battle for democracy; but the Private Sector Commission, along with the local business chambers, can celebrate the fact that they were trendsetters for good governance at all times. The push that these collective voices offered was vital.
However, I am very concerned that the local religious leaders and the academic community are experiencing a serious symptom of aphonia. It took some major backroom operations involving threats of international sanction after September 18, 2019 to create the conditions that secured a consensus GECOM Chairperson in the spirit of the Constitution. The process is now all in the hands of GECOM, and it is now time for GECOM to shine and get on with the job. There are lots of tasks to be done, and there is little time to do them.
Of paramount importance is the updating of the voters’ list. One side has said this can be achieved only by pressing on with 18-month-long operations called house-to-house (H-2-H) registration, while the other side claims the list used in the 2018 Local Government Elections can be updated within 4 weeks using a process called Claims and Objections (C&O).
Under the C&O system, all the 18-year-olds who are not on the list and want to be added can step forward and be included. To remove the names of the dead since November 2018, a state agency called the GRO can submit such a database, and that process can be done in three (3) days. So, who is correct?
Well, it is not about who is correct and who is not. It is about doing what needs to be done most efficiently in order to live within the rule of the law. According to the CCJ judgment, Guyana must hold elections by September 18, 2019, as publicly confirmed by the Chief Justice on July 2019. The only way to extend that date is by a vote with a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, and that requires the support of the PPPC. Freedom House officials have so far stated that they have no appetite to extend this timeline until the Caretaker/Interim President Mr. Granger announces a date.
In the final analysis, this struggle is not over, in spite of the appointment of the GECOM CHAIR.
I am of the opinion today that the earliest we can hold credible elections is October 5th, 2019, which is after the legal deadline. If GECOM follows the most effective path to update the 2018 list into a credible 2019 list, then they must have four (4) weeks of C&O to achieve this objective, and that will take us to August 30, 2019. Then even with a supportive Mr. Granger on Team Guyana, he still needs a day or two to call the elections and announce the nomination date. This then sets in train a legal process which requires 30 days from nomination day to elections day.
My humble advice is that we must all continue to cooperate to extend this date to October 5th, 2019, but with one caveat: Mr. Granger must play fair this time and work with GECOM and set a date before the extension is given.
We, as a people, must all work together to prevent an illegitimate government, since it will present an image to the international community that Guyana is ruled by a bunch of “louts” and “lants” whose desire is not to tackle the complex human developmental issues that the nation faces.
If the business world loses confidence in Guyana, then we will experience an increase in the flight of funds, which can cause the non-oil economy to further collapse; which will have further catastrophic impact on the local economy.
Leadership resonates around an attitude of minds to do great things by doing better than you originally planned, and to figure out things in ways you thought were not possible. This blame game of who is right and who is wrong must end. This is not how great nations advance. In my mind, my homeland is a great nation with great collections of people who are ready to be the economic trendsetters of the Caribbean. As one of our national songs reminds us: “Onward, upward, may we ever go, day by day in strengthen and beauty grow”.
Let us show the world what Guyana’s sons and daughters can do as we all welcome our new daughter at the top of GECOM.