Guyana faces its greatest and gravest political crisis since Independence. Everyone knows this except Guyanese.
Guyanese are living in another stratosphere. They do not understand the gravity of the crisis which is facing the nation. For the majority of Guyanese, there is no crisis at all. For them what the country is facing is a political contest between the APNU+AFC and the PPPC.
Even if one accepts that blinkered view of things, this is no ordinary contest. The country is at a virtual standstill. Everyone seems to know this except the government.
Investors are not going to come here given the present volatile situation, one made far more risky for investors because of the takeover of the Berbice River Bridge and the activities of the State Asset Recovery Agency and the Special Organized Crime Unit whose actions have been described as stinking of political vendettas.
Business has slowed tremendously. Crime is on the increase as it does whenever there is a political crisis. The business community is complaining because the Cubans are not shopping as much as they used to because they are being attacked and robbed.
All of these problems have resulted because of the political crisis which emerged since last December and which has not yet been resolved. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which is supposed to call elections to bring closure to this crisis, is no closer to doing so.
How come it has not dawned on Guyanese that GECOM has been at the center of all the country’s major political crises since Independence? There was a crisis in 1968 when horses and the dead voted in elections in Guyana. There was a crisis again in 1973 when the army seized the ballot boxes and old-bloodedly shot down persons seeking to protect the hijacking of the ballot boxes by a renegade military.
There was a crisis in the run up to the 1990 elections when the voters’ list was so flawed that there had to be a political agreement to postpone the elections. Arising out of this process was a shakeup in the Guyana Elections Commission, including the removal of its Chairman, Harold Bollers, and a senior election official.
The Carter formula was put into effect to appoint a new Commission. This process also led to changes in the elections machinery.
Guyana is again facing a political crisis. Come the 18th September 2018, the tenure of the government expires, according to the Constitution. What happens then will have to be decided in the Court.
But once there is no agreement to extend the life of the government by then, the government becomes illegal. And this is a far bigger political crisis than any previous one which existed. And GECOM’s failure to hold elections in a timely manner and the act of going ahead with house-to-house registration, even though when it was commenced there was no Chairperson, has eroded confidence in GECOM.
It is time, therefore, for another shakeup at GECOM. The entire GECOM should be dissolved. Guyana is not going anywhere with such a divided and polarized Commission. There will be grave question marks over the elections if the present Commission and Secretariat is allowed to continue.
Guyana will never develop if it keeps lunging from crisis to crisis. It is time to bring an end to this rigmarole. It is time to replace the entire GECOM Commission and its Secretariat. Pay everyone their benefits, thank them for their service, wish them good luck and appoint a new Commission and Secretariat drawn from external personnel to administer the elections.
The Commonwealth Secretariat and the Caricom Secretariat should be invited to take over the entire election process. There are persons across the world who have experience and knowledge about voter registration and election management. Invite these persons to take over the elections and let us end the present political crisis.
There is precedent. In 1992, there were changes in GECOM and Guyana put behind its ugly past of rigged elections. We can end the present stalemate by doing the same. The present Commission and Secretariat of GECOM are not going to inspire political confidence in our elections process. It is time for them to be replaced.
(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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