LETTER: Forensic probe must be carried out at GECOM before any new elections are held

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Dear Editor:

The nation is no longer surprised by the expressions arising from the recent PNCR press statement: that the party is not interested in reforms at the Guyana Elections Commission. The revelation establishes full confirmation of the intent of that party: to hold on to a fraudulent system, and the absolute acceptance by their leaders that only a cheating mechanism would sustain their cause.

With all that was said, and what the publicly revealed before and since the passing of the No-Confidence Motion on December 21, 2018, the discredit of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) performance and the organization’s public failures could not have been more widely criticised. The Guyanese people must indeed be thankful for the strong stand taken by the global community, international diplomats, as well as the combined contesting parties at the elections.

The situation reeked of indecency, dishonesty, and every intent of fraudulent GECOM officials’ attempt to capitalise on the most blatant and non-transparent approaches to derail the true results of the peacefully conducted elections. Since the 1970s, there has never been a more biased and publicly underhand attempt to catapult the PNC operatives into power.

Recently, we witnessed Mr. Granger and other senior administrative officers of the PNC demonstrating the most outrageous support for the contaminated GECOM officials. This, no doubt, cements their unquestionable corroboration with the thieving motives of CEO Keith Lowenfield et al. While due process is expected, there is sufficient, and overwhelming evidence at minimum, to have the CEO and his cohorts suspended and removed pending the outcome of the current election matters in the courts.

Editor, the investigations must be comprehensive, and not limited to the elections results matters. It is imperative to have a full probe into all the serious suspected financial malpractices and the clear indicators of fraud raised through the Auditor General’s observations concerning the 2015-2016 period.

Of note, the Kaieteur News dated November 05, 2017 reported that following “a year of denial of wrongdoings at GECOM is not standing up to the test as state auditors have confirmed serious procurement breaches at the entity.”

It may be recalled that, on more than one occasion, I have advocated for the detailed follow up on the observations raised by the AG at GECOM. Indeed, it is difficult for one with a rational mind to fathom that the body charged with the responsibility of overseeing general and local elections in Guyana would act above board when there are definitive questions about its operations regarding accountability and transparency.

Although the indicators were bright and shiny, however, it was felt by many that the counter-checks in place would be sufficient for acceptable results.

As March 02, 2020, showed, such chances must never be taken again! President Dr. Irfaan Ali’s caution and decision not to proceed with any further elections unless GECOM is fixed must be wholeheartedly supported. We, as citizens, must also ask ourselves why would the PNC representatives not want to fix a broken system? Our citizens would recall the blatancy of Mr. Granger’s unilateral appointment of James Patterson as GECOM Chairman, together with the widespread biasness he exercised. Notably, he rejected the proposal of the United Nations to assist in system accountability improvements.

According to the recent statement of PNC Executive Mr Aubrey Norton, a similar trend is being adopted following Canada’s offer through the Canadian High Commissioner to render assistance in this regard. It must be recognised that

GECOM is considered critical to the holding of free and fair elections in Guyana and preserving the pride of our democracy. All Guyanese must stand together in rejecting the whims and fancies of the clandestine PNC crew.

Importantly, we cannot have such an important autonomous agency as GECOM spending over fifteen billion dollars in an unaccountable manner. The blatant financial fraud at GECOM must be exposed.

Further, the more blatant electoral fraud that took place during the 2020 National and Regional Elections must be fully ventilated, and all those senior GECOM officials found culpable must face the courts. Chairman Madam Claudette Singh is therefore called upon to immediately address the outlandishly tarnished image of GECOM by ensuring audits and financial prudence within the institution.

Critically, it is appreciated that Local Government Elections are due next year, but Guyanese cannot and must not accept the present untrustworthy staff at GECOM to prevail at any elections. As such, remedial actions must be taken swiftly, given the high justifications for the organization to be forensically investigated and overhauled before any new elections. The disgusting call by Joseph Harmon for Guyana to have Local Government Elections in 2021 is interesting, but lacks foundation. This is particularly relevant since Guyanese must not go to elections with officials that are before the courts charged for misconduct in public office, for fraud, and for forgery in overseeing the process.

Further, GECOM must come clean, providing answers to all the previous non-consultative gerrymandering of constituency boundaries and adding new divisions. The roles of many officers and presiding officers were highly questionable, coupled with the unacceptable behaviour of some information officers at some polling stations, who laughed at voters as they sent them around to various polling stations to frustrate them.

These profoundly serious issues were deliberately encouraged by GECOM staff, and the presiding officer at Peters Hall who deliberately switched the PPP/C votes and gave them to the APNU/PNC will not be forgotten. A total cleansing is required.

Neil Kumar