2021 Budget to provide funding for LGE: will Gecom do what is necessary and acceptable?

2021 Budget to provide funding for LGE: will Gecom do what is necessary and acceptable?

Dear Editor,
It is heartening that President Dr Irfaan Ali and Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo have publicly signalled the Government and PPPC’s commitment to holding Local Government Elections (LGE).
This commitment is cemented in their declaration of certainty that adequate appropriations for the conduct of LGE would be made in the 2021 Budget. Will the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) do what is necessary and acceptable?

Indeed, there are perhaps some Opposition hopefuls who may have preferred that the Government do not accede to these considerations. The obvious reasons are for the want of excuses that are likely to be used in their characteristically irrational and blatant attempts to shield their exposed dirty conspirators in and out of the GECOM system.

This MUST not be allowed! The Government’s eradication of financial hindrances to this cause must serve to hasten the necessary cleansing and alternative remedial preparation by the Chairwoman and Commissioners.
There is no denying that LGE is especially important, and is the most significant mechanism to our democratic embrace and feedback at the community level. However, it would be most inept and disappointing if GECOM causes the Guyanese citizenry to face another round of elections with untrustworthy and corrupt leadership at the helm of its Secretariat. Current observations suggest that GECOM is not moving with appropriate speed to clarify these matters.

There is an abundance of evidence to support why Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and his Deputy, Roxanne Mayers, must be removed immediately and be permanently divorced from any functional or oversight activity of GECOM. They have been prejudicial at best, and strongly in conflict with the neutrality mechanisms required to discharge their intended responsibilities, roles, and functions at the organisation. If the current charges for electoral fraud that they are now facing in the courts are not sufficient, then what is?
Importantly, Section (162 (1) [b], Constitution (Amendment) Act) establishes that, as the entity responsible for the administration and conduct of elections in Guyana, the constitutional obligation and core role of GECOM and its members in the execution of its mandate is to act with impartiality and fairness. Based on the shocking revelations emanating from the 2020 elections processes, the blatant defiance of Mr. Lowenfield et al of the Chairwoman and Commission’s decisions, there is sufficient reason to have his contract terminated.

What are Madam Claudette Singh and the Commission waiting on? I hope not the outcome of these court matters, because the Commission would be stymieing the purpose of its existence.
The numerous staff members involved in the publicly visible skullduggery observed at the 2020 Elections must also be removed. The Chairperson must assert herself and send all those questionable staffers off the job. Elections must be free and fair. The Public Relations Officer at GECOM must also let the public know the status of untrustworthy and cheating staff members of GECOM. Given the serious public concern, therefore, Chairwoman Madam Claudette Singh and the six Commissioners MUST advance immediate corrective actions to address the obvious pitfalls. Let it be known that the PPPC, the international community, and the Guyanese citizenry at large would not settle for less.

The 2020 outlandish behaviour of Keith Lowenfield and others under his stewardship allows one to now put together the more subtle partisan cover-ups that were observed in the previous LGEs. It would be a futile and unconvincing effort to disassociate his bullish pretense in facilitating favourable advantages for the benefit of the power-hungry PNC in the APNU setup. Among his sinister sleight of hand and ‘in bed’ accommodating approaches to the PNC cabal was the extremely short notice of the increased Local Authority Constituencies by 10 to 81.

Additionally, numerous changes were made to long-standing Constituencies’ boundaries without the necessary consultations to off-balance the PPP-C. In this regard, several communities had voiced serious disagreements with the ‘gerrymandering’ of the Neighbourhood Democratic Council boundaries by the APNU/AFC Government through the Ministry of Communities, while the GECOM Secretariat partners remained silent.

It is also factual that the Auditor General’s reports regarding the organization since 2016 bear rich testimony of excesses under the hands of the CEO. This complicates matters further and concretises a larger untrustworthy conundrum. A posture of thoroughness must now be taken by the new Chairman of the Commission in the face of so many public complaints and evidence provided by the Auditor General’s reports.

The nature of our democracy demands trust, confidence, accountability, and transparency in all that is happening at GECOM. Given that the nation is yet to witness any meaningful approach towards the creation of any form of balance and neutral stance required to set at ease these associated concerns, one wonders if GECOM will move to put in place the mechanisms that would be necessary and acceptable for the upcoming 2021 LGE.

Neil Kumar

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