The date October 18, 2017, will be a day that will live in infamy. It will join the ranks of days like July 10, 1978 when the Constitutional Referendum was held or December 09, 1985 when one of the worst rigged elections took place. It will certainly be a date that Guyanese will remember with sadness for many years and generations to come. Historians will recall the day as the time when the autocratic tendencies of the APNU+AFC Government went into over drive and a day where the hard won rights of the people were trampled upon.
October 18, 2017, saw His Excellency, President David Granger do what many imagined was unthinkable and proceeded to appoint a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) outside of the eighteen (18) Guyanese nominees that were submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
The President, through his action, has displayed the sort of respect he has for our sacred Constitution and the nation’s developing democratic culture. The President by his actions has catapulted himself to be worse than his idol – Forbes Burnham.
Mr Burnham, though having questionable approaches to elections, ensured that Chairmen of the Elections Commission were appointed in keeping with the then law. President Granger, on the other hand, has taken an approach on this important matter which is regarded as unconstitutional. President Granger has demonstrated that he is no Burnham; he hasn’t shown LFS’ tact nor finesse. The GECOM appointment has shown the President’s hand and his intention to move our country from a fledgling democracy to a full-blown autocracy.
But that was not all the unilateralism that was exercised. The Government of President Granger imposed for the third consecutive year, without the agreement of the Union, a pay rise for public servants. The President, in his capacity as Opposition Leader railed against such an approach but now has turned around and done exactly what he said he wouldn’t do.
He was so firm in that position that in the APNU+AFC manifesto at page 25 said that if the Coalition were elected they would “Enforce the Principles and Laws Governing Collective Bargaining, in accordance with our commitments under the International Labour Organisation”.
Can the President and his lackeys be really taken at face value anymore? But the pay rise announcement was part of the carefully choreographed show orchestrated by the Administration. With one hand, they gave sprinkling seeking to distract as they took away with the other hand Guyanese democratic rights and the trust they had placed in the elections machinery.
But if we weren’t convinced that we weren’t accelerating on the road to totalitarianism, we saw, on October 18 too, the charging of Directors of the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) on the trumped up charge of contempt. The Bank, which according to the media is contesting the charges through the Judiciary, is seemingly being targeted by the hounds as they seek to protect their customers’ privacy. That known fact that the bank was contesting the intent of the Court Order nullifies, in my view, any contemptuous behaviour by the bank’s directorate.
Guyana is heading down a path and to a time which no Guyanese who lived through it should not have to relive and one which younger Guyanese need not confront. The euphoria of a Good Life for All Guyanese has all but vanished and what we are faced with is economic decline, social reversal and steadily falling standard-of-living.
To counteract this real situation, we have seen the Iron Fist being deployed to maintain political power and the keys to the Treasury at all costs, no matter the implications or the consequences.