Urgent need to strengthen RoPA

Dear Editor,

The PNC’s glaring manipulation of our electoral system for almost thirty years before 1992 remains indelible on the minds of many citizens alive today from that period. March 2020’s frightening abuse of the process at the hands of many of their leaders and agents has certainly tainted the crafted intent of decency and fairness in our democratic framework.

Without a doubt, the foregoing highlights strong justifications and a necessity for the immediate strengthening of our applicable electoral laws. In particular, urgent changes to Chapter 1:03, Representation of the People Act (RoPA), are critical. The amendments must target ensuring that clandestine operatives and their agents who are hell-bent in their pursuit to suppress the will of our great nation are sufficiently deterred, or be adequately punished in cases where they breach the applicable legal protocols.

In context, the Attorney General’s Chamber and the Ministry of Governance must be commended for their efforts at proposing influencing recommendations in the draft amendments to the electoral laws. Further, their demonstrated genuine interest in involving the widest cross-section of our population in the scrutiny of the proposed amendments in draft electoral laws must be commended.

Some of the observed responses to the requests from the associated consultations point to the overwhelming harness of penalties being draconian; while others, particularly from the main Opposition representatives, are centred on the need for a complete overhaul of the laws through electoral reforms. It is a long-known fact that the applied strategy by this group was and still is premised on inflicting delays where they believe that the system affords options for manipulation.

It should be recalled that the National Task Force, set up after the 1994 Local Government Elections to review related electoral reform matters, achieved nothing after almost two decades of interaction. This was largely due to the delaying and antagonistic strategy of involved PNC operatives to changing legislation that would have been subjectively interpreted and/or represented.

In this case, however, Local Government Elections are due, and all systems must be put in place for the holding of free and fair elections. While electoral reforms are necessary and important, this nation cannot wait out another ten years of frustrating delays for the necessary legal assurance and framework to be fortified. Systems must be put in place to hold duly constituted Local Government Elections now. The Guyana Elections Commission being fully prepared to hold free and fair elections within an effective and legal framework is imperative.

Adequate preparations mean that the relevant staff must be in place. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is at present without a Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Deputy CEO, Assistant CEO, Chief Accountant, Legal Officer, Logistics Manager, Civic and Voter Education Manager, along with other vacancies to be filled. As a consequence, the Chairperson of GECOM, Madam Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh must uphold her responsibility for the functioning of the Commission, get her act together, and quickly put a system in place for filling all the appointments, and have the full staff complement in place.

The PPP/C Government is fully behind the holding of Local Government Elections, and supports this position by ensuring the allocation of over $1.1 billion in the 2021 budget for the holding of LGE this year. The budgetary breakdown categories confirm allocations approximating $237.7 million towards the printing of 500,000 ballots and other relevant publications; $285.7 million for voters’ education; $135.7 million for the training of election day staff; $81.6 million for rental of buildings to conduct the elections, while a whopping $75.6 million was allocated for meals. Further, it must be fresh in the population’s mind that a substantial amount of rollover funds are in the GECOM coffers.

It is not surprising that Vincent Alexander is talking of the pulling of GECOM purse strings. What is utter nonsense relating to Alexander’s aberration about the National Procurement & Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) refusing to release required appropriations to GECOM. Where is the evidence to show that NPTAB refused to approve projects or releases of money related to GECOM?  Further, NPTAB is not responsible for the release of funds. I therefore call on Mr. Alexander to provide the evidence for national scrutiny that GECOM specifically made requests to NPTAB.

In respect to the renting of buildings, the Commission, in directing GECOM’s CEO, needs to make sure that retendering must be completed well in advance before the expiration of an existing contract. Did GECOM apply for a multi-year agreement? What is stated in the Rent agreement (clause)?  Was this issue ever flagged at the GECOM Commission? Where are the minutes of Meetings?

Vincent Alexander, in questioning the autonomy of GECOM after 2020, is being wicked and deceitful. He cannot be real in the representations bent on misguided perceptions, and must stop attempting to influence with his falsified opinions. There is a need to separate and be clear about what is the true meaning of autonomy and accountability.

The GECOM Commission, together with its Secretariat, makes up a Constitutional Agency funded by taxpayers, and must be accountable. This nation must not be misled by the fallacies of Alexander, and understand the role of the GECOM Secretariat and the powerful Commission.


Neil Kumar