Provided there are no administrative hiccups nor legal snafus along the way, the Guyanese electorate is heading inexorably to the polls on March 2, 2020.
Although we are just few weeks away from March, there is a certain significance about that month that is inextricably bound up with the history of elections in Guyana.
Drawing attention at this time to past events in March, should not be viewed as a divergence nor a distraction from the current elections campaign. Neither should it serve to weaken our vigilance in respect to holding GECOM accountable.
On the contrary, referencing those events at this time, should serve to strengthen our determination to press on all fronts, for free and fair elections.
It was on March 6, 1997, President Cheddi Jagan, the progenitor of the struggle for universal adult suffrage and free and fair elections, died at a military hospital in the United States
Michael Manley, outstanding Caribbean statesman and former Prime Minister of Jamaica died in his homeland on the same date in March.
Janet Jagan became the first female Prime Minister of Guyana on March 17,
After winning the elections held on December 15, 1997 with 55.2 per cent of the votes cast, Janet Jagan made history by becoming the first female President of Guyana.
The PPP/C won the general and regional elections held on March 19, 2001 with Bharrat Jagdeo as its Presidential candidate.
The near coincidence between these dates in March would not go unnoticed.
The coming elections will be Guyana’s sixth, being held on the eve of the twenty third anniversary of the death of President Jagan.
It was during Dr. Jagan’s tenure as Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the PPP that the electoral reforms of 1992 were ushered in to facilitate the holding of free and fair elections in Guyana for the first time since 1964.
The ground-breaking electoral reforms were brokered as a result of the astute and diplomatic prowess of the Carter Center representatives.
And the successful realization of external assistance came about as a result of internal pressures brought to bear by mature political leadership demonstrated by the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD) in which the PPP played a leading role, supported by a broad array of progressive and democratic forces as well as patriotic captains of industry.
Twenty eight years later, the wheel of history has turned a full circle. The first time saw the rescuing of Guyana from tragic economic circumstances. This time around, the country finds itself mired in a constitutional quagmire created by a caretaker government whose mantra seems to be “We shall not be moved.”
It is from this backdrop, that the current battle, waged mainly by the PPP/C for free and fair elections, for the restoration of the rule of law and for a national democratic form of governance must be viewed.
Twenty two years ago, on March 19, 1998 to be precise, a CARICOM Audit Commission arrived in Guyana to; “Conduct an urgent and independent inquiry into the electoral process and procedures as well as the role of the Elections Commission related to the December 15, National and Regional Elections in Guyana.”
The PNC had challenged the elections results in the court.
The Chief Justice discharged orders nisi of certiorari and prohibition in respect to a writ aimed at preventing Mrs. Jagan from assuming the Office and carrying out the functions of the Presidency.
The Chief Justice had ruled that “article 177(6) prevents direct scrutiny of a declaration by the Chairman of GECOM but not an inquiry by way of an election petition.”
The PNC appealed the decision and subsequently presented a petition contesting the validity of the results of the elections.
The court actions were accompanied by street demonstrations and political unrest orchestrated by the PNC between 1997 and 1998.
Political intervention by CARICOM, saw the arrival of a CARICOM Goodwill Mission, the signing of the Herdsmanston Accord, the establishment of a CARICOM Audit Commission, Constitutional Reform and an Inter-party dialogue process culminating in the signing of the St. Lucia Statement, in that order.
In August 1999, Mrs. Janet Jagan resigned as the fourth Executive President of the Republic.
The cost of pulling the country back from the brink was high. Mrs Jagan’s tenure in office was reduced from five to three years.
The PNC made a big issue of her colour and origin. The crisis had a debilitating effect on her health.
Janet Jagan died on March 28, 2009.
On the basis of our own experience, whereby elections are known to generate the paradoxical juxtaposition of impossibility and certainty, a repetition of what occurred in 1997 must be avoided at all costs.
With the impending March 2, elections, important lessons are to be learnt from the December 1997, March 2001 and the May 2015 elections by all Guyanese and that is they must never give up what they have in their hands for promises that were made but were never fulfilled.
With the PPP/C out of office there is deep regret and suffering on a national scale.
The Guyanese electorate must therefore take seriously, the sounding of alarm bells, alerting us of a full blown dictatorship that is beckoning should the APNU+AFC be returned to office.
The APNU+AFC presidential candidate recently called on his supporters to give his coalition, control of the parliament, the executive, the RDC’s the municipalities and the NDC’s.
Control of the judiciary seems to be just a matter of time.
We must never repeat the error of taking for granted benefits gained under the previous PPP/C administration less they be swept away forever never to return in the illusive ‘Good life.’
Clement J. Rohee
Feb 26, 2020Narayan Ramdhani (The Kings University) and Priyanna Ramdhani (Olds College) were both selected to represent the Province of Alberta at CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) national...
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