Constitutional reforms must bring about genuine & effective changes at the Guyana Elections Commission

Constitutional reforms must bring about genuine & effective changes at the Guyana Elections Commission

Dear Editor,
Given the 2020 elections fiasco in Guyana, it can be strongly argued that the applied systems at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) have deteriorated beyond acceptable levels. The actions of controllers of the Secretariat served to encourage widespread tumultuous chaos and deepened ethnic divisions, while facilitating an outright vulgar robbery that defeats its purpose of existence. The situation urges immediate overarching review and purposeful remedial changes.

Criticisms of the body have morphed into a crescendo of widespread fraudulent embarrassment deserving of the handed down global condemnation. Recognised weaknesses in the system of operation have been highlighted in several areas, exposing clandestine political agents, internal and external. Sadly, these players have used the breakdown to their advantage, and much to the detriment of our democratic ideals. The international calls for reforms could not have been louder at this time.

The authors of this column have long advocated for necessary reforms that would bring about genuine and effective changes; those that would engender confidence in the institution to uphold its mandate of providing free and fair election results. Our nation has suffered for much too long under the vice grip of a power-hungry few, and therefore there should be no second thoughts about erasing this malignance, given that we had to be saved by our international neighbours and friends, who stood strong to reject the wanton attacks on democracy.

Notwithstanding, the claim and efforts to make changes to our Constitution are a serious matter which must be done in a comprehensive manner and with the inclusion of all stakeholders. Guyanese must have an all-embracing constitution that reflects the desire for a better Guyana, as well as one that would empower social partnership and harmony while endearing the respect of the world.

It cannot be denied that in the past constitutional changes impacting GECOM were undertaken, and still we need to do more. The most significant ones include the 1980 changes, followed by those made in 1996-97. They brought major improvements to a framework that was flagrantly violated in cycles under the previous governments of the People’s National Congress (PNC). Of note is that the brazen strategies to deflect from decency were tried once again in 2020 by this shameless and unforgiving cabal, breaching key constitutional tenets along the way.

One must therefore be wary of the seemingly innate characteristic intent of key players in the PNC, who persist with their underhand pursuit and backdoor approaches to attain power. Definitely, it will not auger well for the reforms to be undertaken unless the key players are willing to abide by the rules.
Alternatively, strategic approaches to force them to do so must be conditioned on the inclusive presence of appropriate and enforceable penalties for attempts at electoral fraud.

The role and selection of GECOM officers and staff will always be centrally pivotal. Therefore, the cleansing must be addressed in a forensic and deep-seated manner. Aside from the limitations brought about by the abused autonomy, our nation cannot afford any sympathies for the pathetic executives who display ‘many shades of grey’ as they continue to hide key electoral evidence-based documents, including Statements of Poll.

When the upcoming Election petitions are heard, GECOM must be prepared to make available and tender all documents that the court requests during the case. No doubt, the PNC and GECOM cabal would be trying to rely on the recount documents as an avoidance strategy to producing their Statements of Poll.
Further, CEO Keith Lowenfield must be grilled in a manner that would expose to the courts and the nation why he circulated and submitted four different incorrect tallies to the Commission in respect to Region #4 recount.

Also, to get to the bottom of the matter, legal practitioners must endeavour to extract the facts concerning the reasons why the GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield submitted false reports to the Chairperson of the Commission. The petition must address all issues that were inimical to free and fair elections.
The false ‘broadsheet’ with the fictitious votes must, no doubt, be fully investigated, bringing to light its sinister origin and producers. The 2020 National and Regional Elections highlight numerous flaws in the electoral system. As a consequence, we must let the chips fall where they may, exposing all culpable elements in GECOM for all discovered wrongdoings.

The comprehensive broad-based notion that “adherence to the Constitution is of equal importance as the reform itself” by the Hon. Attorney General Mr. Anil Nandlall must be supported wholeheartedly. Guyana can no longer afford the egregious constitutional breaches, new varied and foolish interpretations to years of accepted interpretations now resulting in months of intolerable court cases. We need to fix it now, and fix it properly, since we must never have any other elections under the same conditions.

Neil Kumar

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