On August 2, exactly five months after the March 2 election, GECOM accepted the results of the voting process when chairperson, Claudette Singh, accepted the CARICOM-observed recount. When you look at the time span, your mind turns to the query, why five months and not five days?
The answer to that lies in the person of Singh. She should not be given credit for saving Guyana. She did not. For five months, this nation was sitting on a volcano and on August 2 when the eruption failed to burst asunder, expected praise poured in for Singh. The question cannot be evaded by those who keep praising Singh from August 2 onwards – why five months?
The history of the election commissions in Guyana is the story of rigged elections under Presidents Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte. By an Act of Parliament in 1968, the independent election commission was brought under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs. From there on, the chairmen were appointed by Burnham. Interestingly, two of the commission’s chairmen who participated in rigging each national election for Burnham were knighted and both were High Court judges – Donald Jackson and Harold Bollers.
The new shape of the election commission in 1990 became an article in the constitution after Cheddi Jagan and Hoyte agreed to what is now known as the Carter-Price mechanism in which the chairman would be a nominee of the opposition leader with concurrence from the president.
From 1992, the chairman of the election commission performed credibly and satisfactorily until we reached the unacceptable deportment of Singh in 2020. All previous chairmen were never subjected to the kind of criticism from the international society and the Guyanese society as Singh was. There were two slight departures. In 1997, the PNC claimed the election was rigged and harassed Chairman Doodnauth Singh. A Caricom team did a forensic audit which proved the PNC’s accusation was wrong. Then after the 2015 election, the PPP asked for the resignation of Steve Surujbally. But in both elections, the denunciations that greeted Singh in 2020 did not occur.
Was Singh’s conduct in 2020 vastly different from what took place in 1992, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2015? The answer is yes. The 2020 election almost devastated the very fabric of Guyanese society because Singh acted unprofessionally and showed immense insensitivity to what GECOM was doing. Looking back on the day of March 4 when the Region 4 Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, adopted outrageous rigging methods, to the final curtain, could the researcher indict Singh for unacceptable conduct? My answer is yes.
Mingo began to use fraudulent figures which the 10 opposition parties, the three PPP GECOM commissioners and international observers objected to. Singh did not intervene. He continued with his depraved injections and on Thursday, March 5, announced the fictitious Region 4 tabulation on which, Keith Lowenfield, the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), acted and on March 6 summoned a GECOM meeting for the next day to declare an APNU+AFC victory.
Up to that point Singh did not intervene. Granger was not sworn in on Sunday, March 8 because the Chief Justice injuncted Mingo, ordering him to use the official Statements of Poll to conclude Region’s 4 tabulation. History should be recorded as Singh allowing for a David Granger swearing in that was illegal.
From March 4, onwards, Singh not only did not intervene but avoided press conferences and was involved in a bizarre incident in which she was locked in a room for hours at the GECOM’s command centre with only the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers, having the authority to prevent others from entering the room. She emerged from her self-imposed exile with cynical smiles as she entered her car. When contacted by persons close to her, she told them, she could not stop the CEO because “my hands are tied” (her words). That was in fact misleading.
Space has run out so we have to answer the question why she accepted the recount numbers and why she instructed the CEO to produce those numbers. My take is that three things happened to Singh. First, some powerful person or persons spoke to her about international criminal charges she could face in terms of international treaties Guyana signed on rights and freedoms.
Secondly, she probably felt scared about the personal affects the financial and visa sanctions would bring. Thirdly, I think she was heavily weighed down by the ocean of relentless absurdities, asininities, immoralities, impossibilities and notorieties of the past five months. There is only so much a normal mind can endure. In the end, she broke and did in August what she should have done in March. She is not a hero.
(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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