In a letter to the press this past week I sought to make the point that what some commentators are calling a constitutional crisis in Guyana is really a deep political crisis which would ultimately have to be solved by the politicians. Since that letter, the president met with the PPP leader and GECOM. The meeting with Mr. Jagdeo expectedly ended in a stalemate, largely because the two leaders could not agree on a date for the next election. Jagdeo is relying on the outcome of the No Confidence Vote (NCV) to determine the date, while Granger is relying on GECOM.
Both sides are on solid ground. The constitution is clear about when an election should be held following a successful NCV. But it also makes allowance for that timeline to be altered via a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly. The question at hand is this: is GECOM’s unpreparedness for an election enough ground to force an extension of the constitutionally-mandated timeline following the NCV?
The answer to that question has to do with whether the disenfranchisement of electors is inherent in the unpreparedness. No constitution would explicitly or implicitly sanction an election in which the voters’ list is compromised to the point where citizens are disenfranchised. Any interpretation of the constitution to the contrary represents the narrowest reading of the document.
The government-appointed CECOM commissioners have told us that the Voters’ List needs to be sanitized. They have also claimed that to use the current list for an important general election would in fact disenfranchise those voters who attained voting age since the last registration exercise. Should the PPP commissioners also be concerned about the state of the list? The answer should be a resounding YES. But this is Guyana—our GECOM is intensely partisan.
So here we are. In a few days, the three-month deadline mandated by the constitution would expire. Since the two leaders could not agree on an extension, the government stays in place—the country must have a government, even if it has restricted powers. The PPP will tell the world that Guyana has an illegal government and the latter would have to defend its decision to remain in power.
I predict that the Coalition would only name an election date after it gets the green light from GECOM. But it must be prepared to live with the fallout from that course of action. The PPP would be relentless. We could well witness some street demonstrations that would test the resolve of the government and the coercive arm of the State. In the end, the leaders would have to strike an agreement, perhaps at the urgings of external forces. As I observed last week, whenever the elections are held, there would be a winner and a loser. The loser is not likely to accept the results. We are in for some dread times.
Last week I commented on the fact that March is the birth-month of Walter Rodney. It is also the month in which another Guyanese treasure, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, was born.
I remember Cheddi Jagan as an apostle of the working people’s struggle for bread and justice; a tireless worker for the emancipation of the poor and powerless. Many have made claim to that mantle, but Cheddi has earned it. He fought the poor man’s fight, even when it was not fashionable to do so. And he was not ashamed to identify himself with that much hated but deeply misunderstood word: COMMUNISM. His was an unshakable belief in the right of the toilers, the hewers of wood and fetchers of water, to stand in the front ranks of humanity.
In so doing, he challenged the very basis upon which modern accumulation of wealth rested. That was no easy thing to do in a world dominated by an imperial order and bent on turning back the tide of working-class resistance.
Dr. Jagan was a different kind of anticolonial leader. He did not seek mere constitutional independence from Britain, for he had the vision to realize that without economic independence based on a fair distribution of wealth, constitutional independence would be meaningless. On this score, he stands apart from his contemporaries.
If the working peoples of Guyana and the Caribbean enjoy any dignity today, it is largely because Jagan had the courage to stand in their ranks and proclaim their cause. And he inspired other fortunate members of the society to put their skills and talents to the service of the less fortunate. His was a full life of service, selfless service.
Death comes, as it must come, but the spirit, life and legacy of Dr. Jagan will continue to defy death. He died knowing that he left this world a better place than he met it. We who are left behind must not squander such a splendid legacy.
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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