President urges greater cooperation between Region’s election bodies
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) yesterday hosted its Caribbean and some global counterparts at the Princess Hotel, when it convened the Sixth Annual General Meeting of the Association of Caribbean Election Organizations (ACEO).
President Donald Ramotar delivered the charge to the gathering of election officials and reminded those in attendance that the very fact that the conference is being hosted in Guyana demonstrates that “we have come a far way, knowing the issues that we have had with elections in this country.”
The Head of State hailed the role of the electoral officials and underscored that, “you have a very important job and you have an important role to play, both in your individual country and in the region as a whole.”
Ramotar stressed that the role of the electoral officials is so important that in the absence of political democracy (which they facilitate) there can be no social and other accompanying development in a country.
The President warned, too, that any country in the region that falls into the realms of being undemocratic will inevitably have a ripple effect on the rest of the region. As such, he impressed upon the Election Officials that given the importance of their roles in member countries, it is only natural for sister countries to pay attention to what is transpiring in each sovereign state in the region.
He conceded that the advent of free and fair elections in itself does not by itself lend to full-fledged democracy, but it is at the heart of achieving the ideal.
Ramotar explained that without free and fair elections, the other facets of democracy would be significantly affected.
“And that is why I say that you are such important people.”
“You are providing an indispensable service to your countries and the region,” Ramotar stressed.
Turning to some of the challenges faced by Election Officials, the Guyanese leader recounted that he witnessed firsthand in Guyana the abuse that can be meted out to such public servants.
He stressed that as long as they perform professionally and recognise their roles in their respective countries, and once the elections are free, fair and transparent, then any attack on them would be reprehensible.
Whilst stopping short of calling for the establishment of a single CARICOM Elections Commission, Ramotar commended the ACEO for the part they play in the maintenance of democracy in the region.
He did, however, urge that there be a sharing of experiences and best practices where possible, which he said would ultimately lead to the hosting of better elections throughout the region.
The ACEO was born out of the “Caribbean Election Network Conference” which was held in Kingston, Jamaica in January 1997.
At that conference, which brought together election officials from 22 countries and Dependent Territories, it was agreed to formulate the first pan-Caribbean Association dedicated to enhancing election administration within the Caribbean.
As outlined in the Charter adopted March 31, 1998, the purpose of the ACEO is to promote co-operation and mutual assistance among electoral organisations in the Caribbean in the pursuit of democracy by processes that ensure free and fair elections.
The overall objective of the ACEO is to foster a self-sufficient mechanism of horizontal cooperation among electoral organizations in the Caribbean to improve their capability to register voters, promote voter turnout and implement elections.