Nov 22, 2021 News
— GHRA says Govt. proposed amendments calculated to stoke tension
Kaieteur News – The Guyana Human Rights Association said that reforming the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the implementation of single-seat constituencies should be the priorities if government is really serious about amending the Representation of the Peoples Act (RoPA).
Two weeks ago government released draft amendments to RoPA, which is laced with draconian penalties for electoral malpractice and also a most controversial proposal to break up Region Four into four sub-districts. Since unveiling the proposals, political parties and civil society grouping have hammered the proposed amendments, calling on the administration to withdraw them.
In a statement on Saturday the GHRA said the proposed consultation to amend the RoPA is calculated to further, rather than reduce, political tensions in Guyana by keeping attention focused on the post-elections fiasco of 2020 and to sustain political polarization. To this extent, it constitutes a piece of monumental hypocrisy, the human rights body stated.
According to the GHRA, priority action on electoral reform should be implementation of single-seat constituencies and reform of GECOM. “These reforms were unanimously approved both by the Constitutional Reform Commission and in Parliament by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Electoral Reform in 2000. However, subsequent efforts over the next decade by civic and religious bodies, the diplomatic community and business sector to implement the reforms were successfully frustrated by the combined resistance of the leadership of the PPP and the PNC,” the GHRA stated.
The human rights body said, revival of the quest to implement those reforms, not the distraction of amending RoPA, should be the current focus of civic action. “Both PPP Governments between 2000 – 2015 and the APNU between 2015 – 2020 had ample opportunity to address these reforms but chose not to do so, preferring to monopolize GECOM to keep MPs accountable to the party leader rather than to the people who elected them. Pressure for implementation in 2004, for example, provided a glimpse of the contortions both parties constantly adopted to wriggle out of the Constitutionally-mandated commitment to electoral reform. At the time, PPP General Secretary, Donald Ramotar MP, proposed a Motion that Parliament establishes a Special Select Committee focused expressly on the number of seats to be contested in geographic constituencies in the 2006 elections. The final three paragraphs of the four-page document read as follows:
However, recognising that the reforms have not resulted in the maximization of opportunities for the development of geographical representation because of the lack of time to agree to the demarcation of constituencies, the PPP will agree to the demarcation of constituencies within the regional boundaries, where there is more than one seat allocated to a region.
Even though the creation of 25 geographical seats satisfied the recommendation of the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC), that an ‘element of geographic representation’ be implemented there has been no suggestion that they be increased. Nevertheless, the PPP/C is prepared to consider an increase in the number of seats in the National Assembly to be elected on the basis of geographical representation.
The PPP/C believes that these proposals are reasonable and adequate to conclude the reforms to the electoral system mandated by the CRC and the Oversight Committee. They also will demonstrate that the PPP/C is flexible and willing to address the concerns of the Opposition to make meaningful proposals to advance the political process. The PPP/C hopes that this example will encourage the opposition to demonstrate similar flexibility in relation to other issues.” (PPP/C Position On Electoral Reform, November 1, 2004 p.4)
“To this day, the younger generation, even those interested in electoral matters, have no idea that a new electoral system was unanimously approved in Parliament, implemented in interim form in terms of the current Geographic Constituencies for the 2001 election, with only the details of single-seat constituencies left to be worked out. Rather than civil society misleading citizens by encouraging the so-called RoPA ‘consultation’, the GHRA is proposing a consultation to address the substance of electoral reform. Namely, the electoral system and the institution for delivering it – GECOM,” GHRA said.
GHRA said without such a framework for the consultation, bizarre episodes such as the recent public announcements by partisan Commissioners of their favoured candidates seeking the post of CEO of GECOM, will continue to distract from the substantive issues.
In line with the new orientation, the GHRA is proposing that the consultation should focus on Composition, Structure and Powers of GECOM; and Completion of the approved reforms for expansion of single-seat constituency. The body said ample documentation exists to enable the current generation to understand why our indefensible electoral system has survived. It has nothing to do with RoPA technicalities but everything to do with a persistent, mutual leadership cover-up to resist real changes.
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