There have been several editorials, columns and letters in the newspapers the past five weeks that have not been endearing to Justice Claudette Singh, the GECOM chairperson. The fundamental reason for criticising her is because she unambiguously stated when accepting the chairperson’s tenure, she will follow the law.
It is the opinion of this writer that she has not and for this reason, she should be the focus of trenchant analysis (see my column, of Tuesday, August 27, 2019, headlined, “Justice Claudette Singh’s behaviour justifies harsh criticism.”
Since I wrote that piece, in my opinion, the GECOM chair has not made any policy move that would make citizens feel that she intends to follow the law. When Justice Singh declared the 1997 elections null and void, she was extremely brave in some of her pronouncement, apart from her main judgment that the production of special election ID cards was a violation of the constitution.
Justice Singh said she accepted that there were frauds committed in the 1977 general election. These included switching of numbers to favour one party over the other, disappearance of ballot boxes, collusion among election officials. These were harsh critiques that were part of her judgment. But to repeat – this judge ruled that the arrangement and conduct of the 1997 election were in violation of the constitution.
This same judge is now chairperson of GECOM, and in my opinion, there is what Forbes Burnham was fond of saying, an “attitudinal metamorphosis.” The very constitution that Madam Singh read to vitiate an entire national election, she seems oblivious to what it currently designates.
The Guyana constitution in Article 106(7), with pellucid use of words, outlines a situation that when a no-confidence motion (NCM) is passed, there must be election in three months. What about that article Madam Singh doesn’t understand? The CCJ ruled that since the NCM is valid, then election should be held three months after its ruling. This was in June. Election then should be this month. It is six weeks since she became the head of GECOM and she has made no pronouncement as to when GECOM will be ready to proceed with a general poll based on the very constitution that Madam Singh used as the basis for vitiating an entire election in Guyana.
One columnist quotes Justice Singh as referring to herself as the “Iron Lady.” Well, I am wondering if the “Iron Lady” has had an attitudinal metamorphosis and has opened herself to a new label, the Paper Lady.” Paper compared to iron is easily torn. One newspaper has taken the view that the Iron Lady is trying to seek compromise between the two opposing sides that make up the Commission.
That is not the role of GECOM chairperson. The essential task of such an office is to follow the constitution. The NCM was passed since December 2018. You cannot fault APNU+AFC for wanting to test the validity of the NCM in court. That was their right. It caused a delay in the holding of the general election, but I would argue that the APNU+AFC leaders were entitled to ask the court to rule on whether 34 votes were needed to pass the NCM.
To many, the 34 argument and the court case were egregious delaying stratagems. Such a position is wrong. The Appeal Court decided that 34 were needed to pass an NCM. How against that background can you dismiss the right of APNU+AFC to seek court intervention? We have gone way past that. Guyana’s final court ruled that on December 21, the NCM was properly put and properly voted on. This is where the Iron Lady comes in.
From the time she entered her office at GECOM, her one-dimensional task was to arrange for a general election. She did nothing of the sort. She ended house-to-house registration (HTH) and created a colossal contradiction. If the court ruled that HTH was legally proper, then in stopping it, she should have proceeded with the extant database and allowed for claims and objections.
But she stopped the HTH and still insisted that the inclusions in the HTH project be part of the database. I am afraid the Iron Lady missed the point. If HTH is legal then in stopping it, you may disenfranchise persons who have missed the HTH personnel. What happens to those persons? This is where the Iron Lady may open GECOM to court litigation.
My question is, “If GECOM were doing a legal process of registering citizens to vote, how and why can it be stopped?” The Iron Lady needs to study the very constitution that was her road map in the 1997 election.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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