The claim by George Gomes, Lieutenant Colonel (retired) and President, Guyana Veterans Legions, in his May 30, 2020 letter in another section of the press, is cause for concern and points to the need for GECOM to take a proactive stand in countering such falsehoods being perpetuated which, if not addressed now, could have serious consequences should the PPP be declared the winner of the elections after the recount is over.
In his letter, Mr. Gomes claims that “PPP agents did not stamp the Disciplined Services ballots, as they were required to” and “over eight thousand (8,000) Disciplined Services votes were not stamped in the PPP strongholds”. The Disciplined Services voice “is crying out loud against the effort by the PPP to have GECOM not count their votes in the current recount, because they are unstamped”. These are serious charges which should not be taken lightly as they could have undesired influences on members of the Disciplined Services who are expected to serve loyally any government that is democratically elected.
Timothy Jonas, ANUG’s Chairman, in responding to Mr. Gomes on May 31, 2020, in that paper has debunked these falsehoods being peddled by Gomes and others. In his letter, Mr. Jonas writes “I am alarmed that Col. Gomes would claim that ‘over 8,000 DS votes were not stamped.’ This is an untruth. So far, there have been only 2,673 rejected ballots, and only a minority of those would be as a result of lack of a stamp. Where does Gomes get his number from? I am alarmed that Col. Gomes would add to his lie by blaming imaginary non-stamping on ‘PPP agents’ and locating it in ‘PPP strongholds’. More untruths, but incendiary untruths. The duty to stamp is on the Presiding Officers (PO’s), and from all evidence so far, those PO’s have kept that duty.”
GECOM needs to recognize the seriousness of such false claims and have an effective and timely strategy to communicate the facts in its possession, thereby correcting such misinformation before it is too late. If GECOM does not adequately manage its communication with timely factual information, it will be culpable if its final declaration leads to mayhem. The events of February 16, 1962, though not election related, should be a reminder how misinformation could do great harm to the country. On that fateful day misinformation that a child was killed by police who had fired teargas to disperse a mob surrounding the power plant at Kingston as they protested against the PPP budget, was used by opposition politician to incite a crowd of protesters in the heart of Georgetown. This led to the unprecedented fire, looting and destruction of 1962 and the beginning of hardening of the racial divide which became increasingly worse over the years. The news of the death of the child was false.
One way or the other, the future of Guyana rests in the hands of GECOM. More importantly, with the equal split of the Commissioners between the APNU+AFC and the PPP, the future lies in the hands of the Chairperson. Like her predecessors, it is she who will be remembered by posterity. It is said ‘if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth’. One hopes that finally the Chairperson will demonstrate the leadership needed to prevent untruths from taking hold and become accepted as truth.
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