This month, the anniversary of the infamous public rigging attempts by staff at the Secretariat of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) awakens the freshly inflicted wounds on our nation. No doubt, the Guyanese people are certainly looking forward to President Irfaan Ali’s commitment to constitutional and electoral reforms. The public outcry has been immense, spewing from every nook and cranny, with demanding drivers of necessity emerging from even those who regrettably were conned into supporting the thievish APNU/PNC crookery.
The obvious infiltration of the GECOM Secretariat was demonstrated through the shameless dirty work of many of its leading officials, a circumstance which stands tall in justifying a most urgent forensic review and ultimate cleansing of the Secretariat. While the casual factors of this critical undertaking must not be delayed, these reforms understandably will have to be dealt with through adequate consultations. The organisation must move to prove its worthiness of service that would engender improved national confidence.
It is disappointing that those at the helm of GECOM still seem to be pussy-footing around, waiting on the courts to interpret and determine what is credible, or rather acceptable performance by staff members under their monitoring control. The courts have already ruled definitively regarding the Commission’s role and authority to supervise matters related to the selection of staff and the work of the Secretariat. Given the level of public defiance displayed by members of the Secretariat to the Commission itself, the level of hesitancy towards necessary actions at the administrative level now befuddles the mind.
GECOM can no longer be a nesting ground for lone-rangers and rogue personnel. Failure to act concerning this apparent ‘rule of thumb’ disciplinary position is indeed an aberration of the organisation’s constitutional mandate. The level of gross indecency is tantamount to the PNC/APNU’s claim in the No-Confidence Motion that 33 is not greater than 32, and it is abusive to our national investments in education. Such insulting unconcerned posture must therefore be immediately dispelled, and GECOM must ensure actions are taken to realign the functionality of the organisation with our constitutional ideals for acceptability.
It would be another disaster of catastrophic proportions if the current GECOM leadership falls short of being appropriately objective. A measure of hope was decerned when Chairman Justice (retired) Madam Claudette Singh made some tough but necessary and instructive decisions during the enforced 5-month hiatus (March to August 2020).
Although the foregoing followed court matters, they led to the eventual correction and release of the election results following the publicly held Recount after a most threatening period of disaster-filled possibilities.
Notwithstanding, the number of occasions the lone-ranger Chief Elections Officer had to be instructed to correct deliberately presented incorrect results demonstrate his patent incompetence and outright partisan corroboration with the thieving APNU/AFC Cabal.
The sloth in assertiveness concerning the Commission’s functionality and directions raises numerous further questions and highlights the vice grip of pervading uncertainty. I share the humble but solid rationale that had this been a court matter held before the retired Chief Justice, who now chairs the Commission, CEO Lowenfield and many of his acolytes would have long been dispatched to a stinking jail cell. It is simply not business as usual and the worms of rotting contamination in GECOM have to be exterminated now.
Editor, local and international observer missions to the March 2020 Elections have submitted reports containing myriad positive recommendations to the Chairwoman of GECOM, yet the nation has not witnessed any significant remedial action. It seems not to matter concerning the way the organisation is seen at home and through the lenses of the global democratic community.
The damage done by the thieving attempts and delays is immeasurable, and Guyana cannot be placed on hold to extend this impacting cancer for further years under the Lowenfield vice-grip.
Consequently, it is imperative that GECOM immediately get down to the business of preparation for this year’s Local Government Elections (LGEs), and this demands the necessary cleansing of all lone rangers and rogue elements.
GECOM MUST put on its agenda LGE scheduled for this year. Standard operational procedures have to be activated to put in place appropriately competent staff and operationalise the necessary new period of Continuous Registration, followed by a period of Claims and Objections. This will cleanse and update the Voters’ List and realise an acceptable position from which the Commission can proceed.
GECOM must get down to the serious task of employing staff that would win the trust and confidence of the nation. The training of staff must be objective, and never again be allowed to be infiltrated by the PNC cabal, who have in the past largely employed their tugs and fraudsters. Therefore, stakeholders’ concerns with the attitude and performance of the Election Day staff must also be addressed and remedied. For the LGEs, the constituency boundaries must be properly demarcated, with appropriate consultation and timely notification.
The Presiding Officers must be women and men with integrity. Polling clerks and ballot clerks, along with the others who will be at the polling stations, must be trained to work closely with all respective parties’ polling agents for transparency and clarification purposes. The theme for smooth polling day transactions, therefore, must have the cumulative effect of reconciliation with the Presiding Officers following all the established procedures to do the necessary counting of the ballots to realise the accurate preparation of the statements of poll.
With the statements of poll, the respective contesting parties will know the true results from which the calculation of the number of seats won in the various constituencies would be determined. The system of employment must produce the best and most highly trusted persons to work at GECOM, while the organisation must ensure the operationalisation of a strong and heavy penal system to deter the emergence of all riggers and fraudsters.
GECOM itself must lobby for the penalties of electoral offenses to carry strong jail terms and a mechanism for the collection of evidence towards the establishment of violations enforced. If this cannot be done, Guyana’s history of continuous rigging of elections will not be corrected. This nation was put to shame at the last National and Regional Elections, and this must not be allowed to continue. The Chairperson of GECOM must act decisively now, and get rid of the riggers.