Home Letters Surujbally undermining Constitution, GECOM (Pt 2)
Dr Steve Surujbally’s casting of his determining vote on the question of the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Lowenfield’s application to the courts to pursue the blocking of a hearing of Ganga Persaud’s Election Petition does not meet nor allows for the standard of transparency and integrity required of an elections commission in any democracy and brings the electoral body to a new historically low point. Why should the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM), through its CEO, stand in the way of the constitutionally mandated resort, which is intended to bring comfort on judicial scrutiny and determination, on the questioning of electoral integrity?
It is Guyana’s democratic process, and GECOM, who would be winners, one way or the other when this matter is fully ventilated and determined in the courts and no one should stand in its way…..unless there is something to hide or an attempt is underway to obfuscate what really transpired in 2015 and to delay the 2020 elections!
Dr Surujbally goes further into bringing his tenure at GECOM into question and disrepute. He, perhaps too readily, accords with the Government’s position that a Judge or a person who can be appointed as a Judge is, a priori, according to his interpretation, suited for appointment as GECOM Chairman, if he is “fit and proper.” This construct of Dr Surujbally would appear to rule his appointment out from the very beginning and appears to be an admission of his ‘squatting’ on the position all these years.
Surujbally tries to adopt an enigmatic posture with respect to the mysterious appearance of fake Statements of Poll (SOPs) into the count during 2015 elections. He adverts to existing “empirical” data which could point in a certain direction. He noted that Police investigations led nowhere and called on the media to exercise more vigilance and to pursue the issue.
The question which naturally arises is why is Surujbally sitting on data, empirical or otherwise, which could help solve this deeply troubling puzzle? Why should anyone, most of all the Chairman of an elections commission, fuel speculations and allow these to run rife with respect to the penetration of the GECOM system by fake Statements of Poll? Is it not required of Dr Surujbally to reveal publically his empirical data to help solve this mystery as an aspect of his stewardship and legacy at GECOM? Is it not within the remit of the Chairman of the Elections Commission to investigate and report fully on this matter? We should all be prepared to let the chips fall where they may in resolution of this crucial issue.
Guyana is still awaiting reports from GECOM on the 2015 General and Regional Elections and on the 2016 Local Government Elections. Elections Commissions in jurisdictions with which Dr Surujbally is familiar have published the reports on their elections, petitions or no petitions, shortly after their elections were concluded. Dr Surujbally has balked at allowing for the 2015 elections report to be done and provided to the Commission, the public, and the national stakeholders.
Monthly and annual reports of GECOM are infrequent and generally of poor usability… as are meetings of the Commission. Oversight of the Commission is poor with complaints of some Commissioners being “embedded” there while others do not have the same access… this against a backdrop of Surujbally refusing to provide common space and facilitation to Commissioners to do research or to meet members of the public.
Surujbally has also refused to provide documented information to the Commissioners on allegations in the media on financial mismanagement and other irregularities at the institution but has studiedly made assertions in the media and in an appraisal on the very good performance of the executive in the face of an ongoing audit by the State Auditors of GECOM.
Dr Surujbally’s insistence on not adopting any course of action to have GECOM’s employment practices result in an environment and appearance which satisfactorily reflect Guyana’s ethnicities and multicultural character is a signal failure towards GECOM avoiding charges and perceptions of ethnic bias. The blinkered approach to this problem allows for the continuing shutting out of representative sections of the electorate from participating fully in democratic action and oversight and this in itself impairs our, admittedly, evolving democracy at all levels and in all spheres.
And, lastly, the lack of any perceived urgency in modernising electoral systems by allowing for the adoption of enhanced biometrics, e-registration and e-tabulation as adjunct to the current system speaks volumes on the ultimate failure of GECOM under Dr Surujbally.
A failure in stewardship and accountability, due to elitist, obdurate, and opportunistic leadership, has resulted in a corrosive atmosphere and the undermining of tried and proven administrative and professional practice, which has continuing negative impacts and portend a future of enormous risk.
We at GECOM cannot continue to fail our country.