Thunderous silence from GECOM quite alarming

Dear Editor,
Months have passed since the catastrophic debacle conducted by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for our General and Regional Elections. Given the sordid fiasco, it is very surprising that there has been no solid Public Relations (PR) release from the institution addressing necessary internal investigations or outlining the way forward. The widely expressed and evidence-based loss of public confidence in the organisation is not only disappointing but unacceptable.
There have been a few secondary PR articles, which relates to the troubling concerns of the Institution paying legal costs for Mr Lowenfield’s representation. This together with an indication from the Chairwoman, Ms Claudette Singh, regarding the cycle of Local Government Elections is unsatisfactory for a constitutional agency. In the circumstances, the thundering silence from GECOM is quite alarming, bothersome, and demands clarity on the way forward. Certainly, the need to engender some sort of confidence in the lost image of the Institution cannot be taken lightly.
President Dr Irfaan Ali and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, have been pellucid on the need to investigate and purge the developments which have led to the most embarrassing political scenario in our nation’s history. At the same time, the President has expressed recognition of the need to have the LGE, given its role in the facilitation of community development.
It is public knowledge that several GECOM senior staff are presently before the courts facing electoral fraud charges. This was expected given their roles in the blatant attempts to falsely influence the true results of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections. It is also crystal clear that under the circumstances, Guyanese cannot, and do not have confidence in the current senior staff members at GECOM. At a minimum, an almost total overhaul may be necessary.
The situation begs for some sort of direction to be given by the Chairwoman and Commissioners, who need to imbue a sense of positivity while putting Guyana first by immediately addressing the needed alternatives. Of course, we would not be moving forward by operating with the key personnel who are facing electoral fraud charges in the courts. It is certainly nothing less than inept considerations by those who fathom the thoughts that we could move on in the same vein because time heals wounds. How could the nation forget the night of March 3, 2020, and the flagrant Lowenfield and Mingo saga?
Further, the presence of politically-tainted characters who were reading out the incorrect spreadsheet must be swiftly stuck off GECOM’s payroll. There must be certainly no future roles for Mr Lowenfield and Clairmont Mingo who should have been on administrative leave a long time now. With the Local Government Elections (LGE) timeline approaching another cycle, too much is at stake to allow the laxity of attitude.
While the Government has stated its commitment and willingness to make funds available in the 2021 budget for the holding of the LGE next year, a forensic audit must be done at GECOM. Over twenty billion dollars were spent without any audit and much of the expenditure was used to facilitate the confusion realised in the 2020 process.
It is not as if the previous LGE held by GECOM was without significant problems. Citizens have witnessed the partisan approaches by certain elections officials attached to the Secretariat. Among these, the wanton and convenient gerrymandering of long-standing constituency boundaries that were suddenly sprung by the CEO to biasedly favour particular political groupings. The man did not even have the decency of consulting in a timely manner while usurping the authority of the Elections Commission.
Further, we must have a “Human Resource and financial” audit at GECOM since, over the last five years, there were hundreds of “phantom” workers. Besides, the organisation still cannot produce one identification card from the hundreds of millions expended in the truncated House-to-House activities or from the last Claims and Objections cycles.
Guyanese must, therefore, demand that all proper systems are put in place so that we must have free and fair elections. Stakeholders must have confidence in the electoral system, and particularly, the staff must not only be seen upholding the highest standards of integrity, but also be perceived as such. We must therefore call for democracy at all levels and the addressing of these matters before the next LGE is a must. Specifically, we must have all necessary changes as a part of the system overhaul at GECOM, particularly concerning the staff.
The PPP/C as the legitimate Government must make sure that all possible “constitutional reforms” are completed, advanced, and tabled for the necessary parliamentary consideration to ensure voters’ confidence. Sanctions and stiffer penalties must be instructive in law so that the partisan GECOM staff who succeed in camouflaging themselves in the system, will never be allowed to get away with attempts to rig elections.
The foregoing is particularly relevant given that agents of the PNC have continued in their bid to attack and discredit the truth, pursuant to their acceptance and perpetuation of fraudulent methodologies. The outcome of reforms must realise and strengthen the system of counterchecks while minimising possible manipulation of interpretation and creation of a deliberate paradoxical framework of operations.
The voters’ list must be the best available. The process must be transparent. Documentation of the process must be foolproof. The procedures in preparation for the elections must be transparent and elections day staff must be properly recruited. Madam Chairwoman, the time is now to put alternatives in place and commence the cleanup. It would be quite clumsy to do otherwise.

Neil Kumar