– says Opposition will win battle against ‘dictatorship’
While describing as unlawful and unconstitutional the recent decision taken by President David Granger to unilaterally select someone of his choice to head the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), outspoken economist and political commentator Ramon Gaskin has said that on that basis alone, he is confident the parliamentary Opposition would win the battle against ‘dictatorship.’
He maintains that the Constitution says the GECOM Chair has to be picked from a list presented by the Opposition Leader, and unless there is no list presented, the President cannot himself pick someone.
“The Constitution is clear. We have been following this system since 1992. We know the system, and there is no need to change it now. There are no ifs and buts about that,” he asserted.
Gaskin, a former advisor to late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, told INews that regardless of the current situation, he feels the Opposition will fight this decision until the end; and will win.
“The struggle against this movement towards dictatorship the PPP will fight… They will fight it in the courts, and they will fight it in the estates and in the economy. That is how the PPP will fight. They won’t make a lot of noise. They have the capacity to fight it and win,” he stressed.
However, the political commentator is of the opinion that President Granger had always wanted someone of his choice to be Chairman of GECOM, for his own intents and purposes. He said if this issue is not challenged, Guyana could have rigged elections like it once did under the PNC regime.
“Dark days are ahead if we are to head down that road. We have to remain a democratic country, and we must fight for what we believe in and what the Constitution states,” he added.
But another issue of concern for Gaskin is that this move, coupled with the Opposition’s refusal to cooperate with Government on matters of national importance, could have an adverse effect on the local economy for several reasons. He said while the revenues from oil will start to trickle down from 2020 and beyond, the economy as it is right now is underperforming.
“This recent move will only add pressure to the already poor performance that has been recorded over the past two years. This economy is suffering now, and (because of) the decision by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to fight the Government, the economy will suffer more in terms of production, consumption, investment, export, and confidence in the economy,” he opined.
The economist also referred to the lack of foreign and local business investment, stating that the climate that has been created by this move will only lead to greater levels of hopelessness and uncertainty for the local economy. He said many investors may feel demotivated and may be unwilling to take risks, especially during these times; as there is now a growing level of political instability being created by the unilateral decision.
“This level of uncertainty is certainly not good for business,” he asserted.
The Opposition have declared that they will challenge, by court action in the courts and at the Caribbean Court of Justice, as necessary, “the steps undertaken by President Granger to subvert and thwart the spirit, letter, and intent of the Constitution.”
The Party is expected to also roll out a countrywide sensitisation campaign relative to “the ongoing threat to democracy and the Guyana Constitution, and to resist the stealthy move to an authoritarian state; undertake meetings countrywide to sensitise the Guyanese people; and to use other means, including social media and (mainstream) media, to (inform people of) the reasons for non-cooperation and the progress of the campaign.”
The Party also intends to brief and consult civic society bodies which participated in the consultations, and which produced the names of the 18 individuals submitted by the Leader of the Opposition to the President for the post of Chairman of GECOM, between December 2016 and August 2017.
All of this will be done even as the Party consistently and regularly engage with national and regional stakeholders to hold Government accountable and ensure that democracy is not derailed.
The People’s Progressive Party has already pulled out of participation in the Border Commission, which was slated to meet this week following a recent flare-up in relations between Guyana and Venezuela.
The Opposition Leader, on Thursday last, met briefly with the Head of State, who informed him that the third list of nominees for the post of GECOM Chairman was unacceptable, and that retired Justice Patterson would be appointed.
The President formally rejected the third list on Thursday, and immediately swore in Justice (rtd) Patterson, who himself was notified of this development only hours earlier. (Samuel Sukhnandan)