GTUC: A democratic transition must be premised on the rule of law

GTUC: A democratic transition must be premised on the rule of law

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) notes, with deep concern, the tsunami of misinformation permeating our social space and its impact on public opinion threatening to destabilise the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM’s) declaration of which party will form the next government.

It also threatens Guyana’s democracy, credibility of our institutions of governance, the rule of law and community relationships at a time when this small nation’s oil-rich potential is being exploited. It is not lost on us that the spread of a misinformation campaign can have far-reaching and long-lasting impact on not only Guyana, but also the Caribbean Community, and further afield.

Moved by this understanding, GTUC seeks the support of Guyana and all concerned to have us navigate these challenges by supporting the call to all persons, organisations and countries with interest in our well-being to respect the internal mechanisms embedded in our judicial system and the independent constitutional office of GECOM, whose chairperson, Justice Claudette Singh S.C, has declared will “abide by all legal and procedural requirements to conclude its work.”

Please note:
GECOM – An independent constitutional body for conduction of National (General), Regional and Local Government elections in Guyana

  • The election process- The process, now sub judice, was halted due to an injunction moved by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C). At this stage, the High Court having established its jurisdiction in favour of the Opposition is having its second sitting on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
  • GECOM, from all public accounts, has never refused to review queries made. What is evident is as it sought to implement administrative measures to address concerns a volatile environment was created obstructing its performance.
  • GECOM Chairperson, Justice Singh, following a subsequent demand from the opposition to continue the process even as same was being adjudicated on, cited legal restraints as the matter was sub judice.
  • A misinformation campaign has started to condemn her learned silence and refusal to show contempt for the courts. Government – President David Granger, on many occasions, declared and continues to support the independence of GECOM allowing this institution to operate without interference from the government. High-priced lobbying – vs- Representation of the People Act (Cap 1:03): These elections have been shaped by the Opposition paid Washington D.C, USA based powerful lobbying firm influencing international observers, citizens and other countries’ perceptions of the outcome of an elections not by GECOM and the Representation of the People Act, the sole constitutional institution/authority to administer the election under the said law.

GTUC recognises that whereas our laws may not address issues of this nature and it is the right of any party to use such means to advance its position, these should not come at the expense of allowing the process to work within the framework of the law i.e. Representation of the People Act. Credibility of the Statements of Poll (SoPs) – The question of the credibility of the verification process has surfaced with several parties lending support to the issue as raised by the Opposition PPP/C.

One presidential candidate, Ms. Phillis Jordan of the People’s Republic Party (PRP), in a video circulating on social media, has since informed the nation that all of the small parties, none of which had its own SoPs in all the 10 Districts/Regions, were issued collated figures from an unnamed major party. Hence the credibility of claims made by these parties in support of the major opposing force raises questions.

Derailing the GECOM process – GTUC is of the opinion that the carefully-orchestrated misinformation and derailing of the GECOM process was also used to advance unrest by opposition supporters in a country that is known for its ethnic tensions during elections. These unrests when carefully analysed serves one major group only, and does not work for the good of the beguiled people. Transition- Democratic transition from this phase to another should not be dictated to outside of the Representation of the People Act and GECOM’s constitutional right to so declare which party/group has won the Executive and apportion the seats in the National Assembly. GECOM is the authority to likewise state which party/group has won at the ten Regional Democratic Councils and apportion the seats on the councils based on the votes received.

Historical Reference – Guyana situation is not dissimilar to that of the United States’ (U.S) 2000 presidential election which resulted in George W. Bush being declared President. In said election the U.S Supreme Court was asked to pronounce on the tabulation (hanging chads) between allotment of votes for candidates Bush and Alfred Gore. The process of tabulation awaited the judicial outcome. Guyana’s law allows for judicial review and resolution of our current challenges and we expect the U.S and other countries of the world to treat with our circumstance with no less respect than they treated with that of the U.S in 2000.

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