Jan 24, 2021 Editorial
A week ago, a brief flare-up took place between the People’s National Congress (PNC) and the GECOM Chair, Justice (rtd.) Claudette Singh, after Singh rebuffed a demand from PNC’s General Secretary, Amna Ally, for the Chair to meet alone with a PNC delegation supposedly to discuss issues surrounding this year’s Local Government Elections (LGEs).
The position taken by the PNC is a very strange one. Firstly, it is not the PNC that is represented in Parliament on its own strength, but the PNC within two concentric circles of admittedly weak and diluted coalitions. There is, A Partnership for National Unity which now only consists of the PNC and the virtually non-existent, Guyana Action Party (which shows zero sign of life), and Keith Scott’s National Front Alliance, which is more front than it is either “national” or an “alliance.” Therefore, the PNC, as a political entity in itself, has no intrinsic right to demand a solitary audience with the Chair of the Elections Commission on any issue, and this is just from a position of pure ethical logic.
An even more compelling reason however, for the Chair to have rightfully and reasonably refused to meet with the PNC Executive alone, is because that executive was materially involved in colluding with elements of GECOM, to engineer a fraudulent outcome in the last election. From the PNC Chair, Volda Lawrence, signing on to the fraudulent declarations by Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, (with whom she is currently facing several charges), to the then President and PNC Leader, David Granger, personally leading the charge to undermine the legitimate work of GECOM for five months after an election he had decisively lost, Congress Place has no moral or legal right to an audience with the Chair of a Constitutional body that its leadership has sought to undermine. The political opposition has three commissioners sitting on the body that are mandated to raise its concerns at the level of the Commission, and is also free to meet with the Commission as a whole.
That is not to say that the ostensible reason that the party had proffered as a rationale for the meeting is completely unsound. The question of routine cleansing of the list in preparation for Local Government Elections is one that warrants discussion, considering that a new registration process was in the making before the No Confidence Vote toppled the Granger administration in December of 2018. However, those discussions cannot be used as a ploy to derail the Constitutionally due LGEs slated for later this year. One gets the sense that the PNC, in the wake of a disastrous showing in the 2018 LGEs, even as an incumbent with access to government resources that it generously directed towards its campaign efforts, sees it in its interest to delay the very local elections that it had brought back after a two decade hiatus under the PPP.
The PPP government on its part has to not only, as it has indicated, lobby for the removal or denial of participation of GECOM staff that colluded with the coalition in the rigging attempt, several of whom are currently before the court system on electoral fraud charges, but that it goes into local government elections resisting the temptation of incumbent administrations to seek to abuse state resources to consolidate national political control by dominating local government organs.
Against this background, the autonomy of GECOM is going to be critical. Chairwoman Justice Singh, after a post-elections period in which she gave the public not unreasonable justification to question her resolve in dealing with political players seeking to upset the democratic process, has recently shown that her Iron Lady label is not unwarranted. That resolve is going to be necessary to restore public confidence in the work of GECOM as the country goes to its first election after the 2020 debacle.
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