Kaieteur News – It probably has not been researched but the most used word by ruling politicians is “elected.” As recent as last week, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson used the word. It is one of the most cherished reactions by ruling politicians because it rebuts the unreasonable demands of critics that include the edict that governments must listen to them and act accordingly.
The word is seen as a protective mechanism in that when the fire of the detractors are raging, ruling politicians inevitably proclaim to their critics that they were elected by the people to make policies. One of the political trends around the world in recent time is for those who feel they can better shape a country to participate in election and ask the electorate to empower them.
I have this friend, the only living person that I hate with intensity – Theatre Guild official, Malcolm DeFreitas. He likes politics so he contested in the last local government election. If you are curious to know why I hate him, I will be brief. In 1978, I asked him to do 24 clicks on the Camp Street seawall with me and my intended wife. Parts of the scrapped railway line were there. And we posed on the wreckage.
None of the films came out. I have no memory to look at of my courtship days at the seawall. Malcolm did the right thing – try to get a mandate to shape the use of power. Government must listen, must consult, must be transparent but at the end of the day, you cannot be a one-man organisation, sit in your office and demand that government does what you want it to do.
There is an important dimension to governance that needs debating. What happens when your critics do not agree on policies? Here are two examples. The government has announced that because of the sheer size of Region Four, for the purpose of general elections, there will be four subdivisions for Region Four – East Coast, East Bank, North and South Georgetown.
A civil society entity – The Election Reform Group – has rejected the four divisions classifying it as mischievous. On the other hand, prominent government critic, Christopher Ram sees nothing negative about the changes. He says it is an administrative mechanism. Mr. Timothy Jonas, de facto head of the opposition party, ANUG concurs with Ram that the issue is indeed an administrative solution.
The second example. The same Election Reform Group rejects the government-sponsored Commission of Enquiry into the March 2020 general poll. It wants GECOM to undertake that task. This is despite a pellucid output by the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice Singh that such a pathway lies outsides GECOM’s ambit.
Here are the words of the group: “The recent announcements about the proposed General and Regional Elections Commission of Inquiry cast a shadow of doubt over the process… we have the decision of the GECOM Chair that GECOM should not undertake an independent review of the elections. The decision of the GECOM Chair is a curious one that raises questions about the Commission itself. Does the Chair have the power to overrule the other GECOM members?”
Juxtapose this statement with another one from another civil society organisation named Article 13. The reporting of Article 13’s statement in this newspaper of Monday, June 27, 2022 in support of the inquiry began with these words: “Article 13 has congratulated President Irfaan Ali for taking what they called a “bold step” towards the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the contentious 2020 General elections.
I quote from Article 13 directly: “We hope that the Commission will be unfettered from political interference and will conduct a comprehensive and transparent review of the conduct of the 2020 elections and of GECOM itself.” In such circumstances where political parties and civil society groups have different approaches to policy directions what should elected leaders do?
ANUG sees nothing wrong with the division of Region Four for electoral administrative purposes. A civil society group rejects that. The same civil society entity wants GECOM to conduct the probe into the March 2020 election fiasco. Another civil society organisation accepts the government-sponsored commission and wants the commission’s mandate to examine GECOM itself.
What is the origin for the variance? Many voices have spoken out about the civil society scene here where organisations purporting to be independent damage the credibility of civil society image by being openly pro-government (PG) and anti-government (AG). The PGs are condemned by the AGs because for many of the AGs, you can only be a credible civil society group if you are critical of power. We can count the number of these organisations that have not condemned election rigging.
(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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