Guyana received its independence since 1966, and one would have hoped that concerns about racial insecurity would have dissipated over the years, but they have not. Two political parties, the PPP and the PNC, have been in Government since then, and it is for another article to discuss this failure and aberration in our society.
Guyana had its elections in March 2020, and it was only in August 2021 that the results were finally announced by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). We are all aware that this inexcusable delay was as a result of the numerous court matters that were filed and had to be determined.
GECOM, whose responsibility was to prepare, conduct and announce the results, must take a major share of blame for the fiasco that followed after the polls were closed. It is my humble view that the root cause must lie as a result of the composition of the members of the Commission, and this needs to be changed in order to avert any future recurrence of the events of March 2, 2020. The members of the Guyana Elections Commission comprise the Chairperson and six members. Three of the six members are appointed by the Government, and the remaining three by the majority Opposition Party in Parliament. The Chairperson is appointed by the President of Guyana, with the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition.
The members of the Commission should be objective in the performance of their duties, and have the best interests of Guyana and the ensuring of elections that are free and fair. Have they been loyal to the oath they swore and to ensure that they are objective? Have they, when acting as GECOM Commissioners, cast aside their respective party loyalties? Have they been able to satisfy the electorate that their decisions were fair, and that the electorate can have confidence in the electoral process and the results? You decide. Perspective is so important!
What had occurred is that the Commission is divided along party lines, with the Government-appointed members on one side and the Opposition-appointed members on the other side. It was left to the Chairperson, on the crucial matters, to cast the deciding vote. When this occurred, according to the matter decided, the members of the public who supported the side that had the vote in their favour were elated. The other half was not, and questioned the impartiality of the Chairperson, Madam Justice (retd) Claudette Singh.
GECOM now has another important task to conduct, and that is the appointment of the Chief Elections Officer and several other important positions in the machinery, for the conduct of elections in Guyana. If it fails in this duty, and appoints persons who do not portray objectivity, or those who have a political party loyalty or can be perceived to have such loyalty, or are not competent for the respective positions, then this will be a further blow to our democracy, and the acceptance of future elections’ results may also be questioned.
It is imperative for the respective political parties to understand that it would be in their interest and the greater good of Guyana for us to have a GECOM which we can feel and believe is objective and fair. If this is achieved, they can be at ease that no mumbo-jumbo, or abracadabra, or incorrect addition will be sprung on them in the future.
We/Guyana have too much to lose now with the wealth that we have and will get from the oil and gas sector. I call upon the GECOM Commissioners to cast aside their political loyalties and show to the citizens of Guyana and the world that they have the will and determination to appoint persons who can have the confidence of all the electorate. The respective political parties must inform their appointed members that they also expect this perspective from the persons whom they have appointed.
But, in my heart, it is hard to see them doing this, and perhaps we are all to blame, as we have to a great extent remained silent and not championed our desire to see fair play, objectivity, and the banishment of race in our society and elections.
GECOM has to show us that the process in the appointments will be fair and acceptable. It has to inform us how it would achieve this, and we should accept nothing less. I do hope that all the appointments would not be by the Chairperson casting her majority vote, as that would not be comforting or acceptable to me. Perhaps you too, also!