Up until Friday there was a lot of chatter about the apparent indecision by President David Granger to appoint a chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission. People who are no more than armchair politicians had their views about the names submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
President Granger did not win friends from some of those people whom he rejected. I remember Major General Joseph Singh resigning from his position on the staff of the Ministry of the Presidency.
Then there was Christopher Ram who was so incensed at the rejection that he actually began a campaign to highlight the ills of the government. He took legal action against the government over President Granger’s appointment of a Chairman of the GECOM Chairman in the person of Justice James Patterson.
He also became enjoined in the wake of the No Confidence vote on December 21, 2018. The others simply went about their business.
Then on Friday there was an appointment. A woman known for her legal acumen and who was working with the police suddenly got thrust into the confusion leading up to the elections.
People are slowly getting accustomed to the fact that the Guyana Elections Commission is the entity to signal the readiness for elections. All the talk about President Granger calling elections was nothing but political hot air.
On Thursday he repeated what then President Jagdeo did in 2006 – that not the People’s Progressive Party, not the People’s National Congress, not the president, can call elections. That statement was largely forgotten in the recent clamour.
Now the focus is on the house-to-house registration. Last year the elections commission took a decision that there should be house-to-house registration. In the wake of the no confidence motion that decision was thrown out the window. The contention was that GECOM should always be ready for elections.
The argument that the list used for the 2011 elections was the same list used for the 2015 elections and for two local government elections could have been used for these elections.
The government contended that the list was grossly padded. It further argued that plausible elections are necessary for democracy.
So Justice Claudette Singh’s first challenge would be to rule on the holding of the house-to-house registration. At present, the matter is before the courts, so she would not have to get involved unless by some twist of fate, the challengers decide to remove the matter from before the Chief Justice.
And while all this is going on, the supporters of the political opposition have taken to the streets to protest the registration. In every administrative region there were protests on Friday. What impact this would have cannot be predicted.
To their credit, the people conducting the exercise are out in their numbers doing just that. People are registering. I have heard the comments that the exercise is efficient and speedy. I have not heard about people refusing to register, although that is exactly what the political opposition is asking its supporters to do.
I now have the task to speculate about the refusal of the courts to halt the registration. Indeed, the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice has been interpreted to mean that elections must be held by September 18, 2019.
As fate would have it, this is the time when the more affluent Guyanese go on their vacation. Many now fear that if they should go on their vacation they would not be registered and would therefore be ineligible to vote.
While the focus is on these things at the national level, something else is going on. Racism has surfaced. That is not something that Guyanese are encouraged to talk about. For most of the time we live comfortably, careful enough to push the element of race into the background.
I see it at this time and I hear it. I have experienced the fake smiles from people who know me. In the period between elections these people have no problem greeting me. Nowadays any greeting is perfunctory.
I know why this is so. Way back before I was born, the two major races were taught to avoid each other by the colonial masters. However, I wonder whether this actually had to be taught. I see all over the world that people of African ancestry seem to attract more hostility than anyone else.
Perhaps it is the fear of people who look different. There was the focus on sex. The fallacy that black men are more endowed than men of other races helped fuel that fear.
When possible, people simply gravitated to each other because of the personality. Their progeny tells the story. I am certain that if one were to conduct a survey in multi-racial societies, one would find more people of mixed ancestry than the pure bred.
The United States is a classic example. For some strange reason, if a person is the offspring of black and white parents, he or she is immediately categorized as black. Why not white?
I remember reading about Meghan Markle, the American who married Prince Harry. She looked white to me, but the press made much about her mother being black. Her white father was pushed into the background.
It is the same in Guyana. I remember during the disturbances of the 1960s when people were told by one or other of the races that they would beat the other half out of them.
I am not certain what is happening to people of mixed ancestry at this time in Guyana. What I do know is that the time has come when people must be people.
A pity such has not yet come.
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