Elections in Guyana — Comedy of Errors or Circus of Terrors?

Elections in Guyana — Comedy of Errors or Circus of Terrors?

Dear Editor,

Count me in as one of the bona fide Guyanese who was glad to know that the elections to decide who governs Guyana took place on March 2, and even happier to know that a team of observers (Organization of American States) headed by former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding was also on the ground to ensure that the elections were free and fair.
Former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, is heading the Commonwealth Observer team. In place, were all the elements to ensure that there would be no element(s) of recurrence of the past — accusations of riggings, fraud, loud shouting and foul mouthing as was the case in the previous election of 2015.

The PPP had ruled since 1992, and Afro-Guyanese complained that they were being marginalised. The Coalition of the APNU/AFC campaigned to break that hegemony.
Additionally, on an invitation from the Guyana Government, The Carter Center, an Atlanta-based not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights launched an election observation mission to also observe the March 2 general election.

The mission would observe and examine key aspects of the electoral process, including the pre-electoral environment, status of the Guyana Elections Commission’s preparations for elections, and campaigning.
The Carter Center would also follow the post-election process, including the tabulation of results and resolution of any legal disputes. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Karen Cummings, in a letter dated November 20, 2019, wrote to the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, inviting CARICOM to mount an Election Observation Mission to observe the elections.

On an ironical note, Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, part of the team of regional prime ministers accompanying the chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) attempting to “bring some semblance of peace and order to Guyana at this particular time,” reminded reporters in 1997 he was part of a similar undertaking while he was chairman of CARICOM.
Here we are more than one week later, a country a mere 83,574 square miles, that has long been one of the poorest countries in South America, still hand tallying general elections, on the verge of an oil explosion aimed at transforming the economy, and yet unable to conduct and complete a election process even in the face of so many high level diplomats and foreign observers being summoned to become inside onlookers.

Like an ill-mannered, growth-stunted miscreant known for impish traits, Guyana has to be under ever watchful eyes, poised to intervene at the first sign of misconduct. Needless to say, while the country may have gained notoriety because of the oil discovery, we have certainly put ourselves in the news on account of our blatant and rapidly-spreading dysfunctionality.
In the tallying of the results of the votes of March 2, diplomats and foreign observers described credible evidence of fraud. Such a statement is a damning indictment to the myriad of people commissioned to overlook the process.
The current post-election sequel has openly demonstrated that Guyana has long been operating in the shadow of ethnicity politics. Perhaps, predictably this particular election has raised the stakes of an already – divided nation, and drawn new battle lines, with both groups eager to control oil revenue. Plainly put —–Who will control the spoils of the oil?—Will it be the PPP or the PNC—This we must patiently wait and see.

Experience has shown that most people’s votes are based on their biases and not on objective reality.
The electoral process is still incomplete, as an injunction was filed by a supporter of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from declaring results. On March 11, Acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that the declaration of the unverified results for Region Four (Demerara/ Mahaica) by Clairmont Mingo, Returning Officer was unlawful as it was in total violation of Section 84(1) of the Representation of the People’s Act.
According to the Chief Justice, the declaration made by the Returning Officer is null, void and has no effect. As a consequence the Returning Officer was ordered to commence compliance deciding on whether the verification process will be restarted or resumed. She further ruled that GECOM cannot lawfully declare the 2020 election results, both General and Regional, until the Returning Officer is in full compliance with the provisions in force.

While the nation awaits its political fate, there are several factors which must be addressed. Why can Guyanese not complete the electoral process without unrest? What a shame! Every election the behaviour is the same.
Most of the current shenanigans are déjà vu for the majority of Guyanese.

As Guyanese ruminate on how the oil will make the country great, let’s get this fact straight on every Guyanese slate—Elections determine who goes into power, but will never determine how the power is used.
So let us await the results before we start to shout, and hope that the new leader will have as his goal not only to lead the country, but to unite the nation as a whole.

Y. Sam

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