The Caribbean Court of Justice rulings on the two cases, one appealed by the APNU + AFC and another by the Opposition PPP/C, have brought to the open many troubling issues in relation to our politics and some of our institutions.
Over the last four years many articles and commentaries have appeared warning of a creeping dictatorship and the need for everyone to stand up to halt the drift.
The first and most obvious was the decision that the Opposition appealed after the APNU+AFC got a successful decision at our Court of Appeal which in 92:1 verdict ruled that the no-confidence motion needed 34 and not 33 of 65 votes. The CCJ rejected that ruling.
It upheld the National Assembly vote, Guyana’s Chief Justice ruling and the appeal by the PPP/C which was that thirty-three votes were the required number of votes to pass the no-confidence motion.
Almost all Guyanese, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, must have known this. Even those who brought the case it appears did this only to delay the calling of election and to give the regime more time in power.
The other issue on the appointment of the Chairman of the Election’s Commission is also vital. The CCJ ruled that the opposition was right and Mr. Patterson was not properly appointed to that post. He is, therefore, unconstitutional. He should resign or be removed immediately.
To me, a person not trained in law, that also seem so obvious.
The process by which the chairperson of GECOM should be appointed was first proposed by President Jimmy Carter for the 1992 elections. It was a mechanism to get a consensus on this very important post.
The reason for this is also clear. For a functioning democracy all the forces in the society must have confidence in that most important body. It must not only be fair but must also appear fair.
In fact, it was constitutionalized at the insistence of the PNC while in Opposition during the 2001 massive Constitutional Reform process. They wanted it entrenched in the Constitution to ensure that they (PNC) had a voice in such an appointment.
The Commission grew in stature from 1992 when Rudy Collins headed it and did a very professional job.
In 1997, elections which in my view was the best conducted election in Guyana, the PNC won a massive victory. Having lost the PNC rioted and called for a forensic audit. The PPP/C agreed to the audit which was conducted by a team from CARICOM.
That audit restored the confidence in the Commission.
After the 2001 elections, the Chairman Joe Singh, before demitting office had an international audit done on those elections which further boosted the prestige of the Commission.
The elections of 2015 were one of their great successes in their move to control the Commission and facilitate rigging.
It is important to note that after the 2011 elections the APNU had demanded that the Chairman Surujbally and the then Chief Elections Officer Gocool Boodhoo, be removed. They had demonstrations and even went in front of the homes of those two officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in vigils harassing their families and threatening them.
Eventually, the PNC/APNU dropped the demand to remove Surujbally but kept insisting that Boodhoo should go. When the vote came at GECOM, Surujbally voted with the PNC recommended Commissioners to remove Gocool Boodhoo as CEO.
Now in power the APNU is continuing its quest for control. The only motive it is quite clear is to manipulate and rig elections.
The way the Chairman, Mr. James Patterson, was appointed to the post of CEO was the first demonstration of the drive to take control and turn that body into an instrument of the PNC/APNU. In the process lists of very prominent Guyanese, people of distinction were dubbed not fit and proper.
The next stage was the getting rid of the man who served as Deputy Chief Executive Officer for a long while, Mr. Vishnu Persaud. This was so blatant that it was shocking. This man scored the highest points on GECOM own criteria, moreover, he has years of experience and was never even accused of any malpractice. He seems too professional, thus, he had to be removed the PNC/APNU are allergic to fairness and professionalism.
Clearly, the Chairman and the three APNU+AFC recommended Commissioners have no interest in professionalism and free and fair elections. It appears that they have seen themselves as agents of the APNU determined to keep that Party in power even if they destroy democracy and Guyana in the process.
The rulings of the CCJ are important first steps in stopping the descent into undemocratic rule.
However, we must not believe that the PNC will halt their efforts to perpetuate themselves in power. They are already showing signs that they are ready to disregard the ruling of the CCJ. The President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have made pronouncements that have telegraphed their intentions. They seem ready to show contempt for the CCJ and the rule of law. They must not be allowed to get away with this!
It is now even more important that every fair minded and everyone consumed by the desire to live in a free and democratic society must now stand up and be counted for Peace, Justice and Bread!