Nov 14, 2021 News
…Govt.’s electoral reform
Kaieteur News – Former Attorney General, Basil Williams has flagged the PPP/C Government’s attempt to sub-divide the Region Four Polling District into four polling sub districts as a “backdoor manoeuver” to steal party seats.
In a strongly worded missive to the media issued on Friday, Williams criticised the proposition by Government saying it “is whimsical and capricious, designed to create confusion in a Geographical Constituency they have been unable to win from time immemorial”.
In Guyana, there are 10 Geographical Constituencies created by Section 11(A) of the Representation of the People Act Chapter 1:03 Laws of Guyana (ROPA). Each of the 10 Regions of Guyana being a registration District and a Polling District under the Local Democratic Organs, (Regional Democratic Councils) Order 1980, is deemed to be a geographical constituency under Section 11 A (3) of the ROPA.
The 10 geographical constituencies elect 25 of the 65 members of the National Assembly, and the number to be elected from each geographical constituency is reflected in a table under Section 11 A (4) of the ROPA.
According to the former Attorney General, “The Region Four geographical constituency is to elect seven members to the National Assembly. There is no physical boundary demarcated in the Region Four geographical constituency to which any of the seven prospective candidates/members attaches, nor indeed in any of the other nine Regional geographical constituencies.”
He added, “I have always criticised this as failing to achieve the objective of having genuine or real constituencies since they are hovering in orbit unable to land on defined physical pieces of land. The result is that the seven candidates/members are elected en bloc and after the elections given notional constituencies.”
In this regard, Williams said that the Government must explain why this proposition is not being extended to Regions Three and Six in particular.
He nevertheless noted that the creation of geographical constituencies is the product of an intricate constitutional reform process (CRP) culminating in inter alia this attempt at a hybrid electoral system for elections to the National Assembly, which was inserted into our 1980 Constitution in 2000, by Act No. 14 of 2000, in Article 160 (2) of the Constitution.
He cited that pursuant to Article 160 (2) of the Constitution, Parliament inserted into the ROPA, Section 11 A, which operationalises the concept of geographical constituencies, in our reformed electoral system.
“The framers in the CRP contemplated 10 geographical constituencies deemed for purposes of registration and elections, registration districts, and polling districts respectively. There was no provision for sub-districting of a polling district as the PPP/C government proposes to do,” he explained.
Furthermore, he noted that the ‘petty tinkering” with the system produced by the CRP will be a breach of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers and the Constitution.
“The PPP/C Government must not attempt to subvert an established constitutional electoral system arrived at after long and mature deliberations by the representatives of the people of this nation, by a backdoor maneuver,” he concluded.
No sinister motive ahead
Meanwhile, the serving AG, Anil Nandlall, in an interview with online news entity, Demerara Waves, on Friday evening defended the draft Electoral Reform.
He said that laws must be dynamic even as he reminded that the ROPA was enacted in Guyana since 1964 and was largely inherited from the British. In further explaining the need for a reform of the laws, Nandlall said the mass irregularities at the March 2020 Elections constitute the need for modification of the constitution.
“We promised to address those issues where we would examine the laws and attempt to rectify whatever loopholes there may be. We witnessed firsthand how the system was abused, how the machinery was manipulated and how the law was perverted,” the AG explained.
In fact, he is of the firm view that the Opposition is against the Electoral Reform as they are the perpetrators the amendments are seeking to address. With regards to the specific controversy in Region Four, the AG pointed out that the decision was made to sub-divide district four, as it is the largest in the country and was also the main centre of attention in the previous elections.
“It’s counting of the votes, just a few thousands threw the entire country into chaos and we know what happened. It’s Region Four and if we are going to address the issues that arose and we are going to reform the laws in relation to addressing the problems that arose, then we have to look closely at District Four,” he pointed out.
Against this backdrop, he assured that the proposal of sub-dividing Region Four into districts is not intended to give any political party an advantage. According to him, “We didn’t create more than one district, we kept it as one and we simply sub-divided. The seats that are allocable, based on votes cast, remain the same for that one district.”
Additionally, he noted that the government is now engaged in a consultative exercise where recommendations are welcome.
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