Polling must be early and swift

Polling must be early and swift

Dear Editor,
Guyana welcomes the local and international observers as the nation heads frontally and purposefully into the inexorable trial of the David Granger-led cabal by the people. The observers will certainly hold scrutiny over the process and provide measures of countercheck to confirm any form of undercurrents that the numerous shortfalls by GECOM have realised.

To most citizens, the time has run out for Mr Granger and his cohorts and certainly, no Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is required to pronounce on the validity of the charge. His outright defiance of the Constitution and manipulative efforts to influence GECOM still has its overtones causing tensions to rise is sky-high. The reactions are that more than ever before, Guyanese voters are determined, prepared and will definitively cast their votes at these National and Regional Elections to erase a mushrooming dictatorship.

With just a few days to the elections, the readiness of GECOM, on the other hand, is highly questionable. To the wider populace, an air of uncertainty now permeates the administrative arm of the organisation, evidenced by the continuous bungling of long-established tried and proven policy positions. The gazetting of the Polling Stations in January of this is year followed by the radical reduction of these stations without the Commission expressed directions in this regard, or without matter brought before it for a hearing. It is the view of his columnist that this did not happen by chance, but with some ulterior intent of causing chaos.

It is evident and disappointing that the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has seemingly moved to impose many of these blatant and violating actions while usurping the authority of the Commission without sanction. These continuous occurrences by the CEO are very suspect as in many instances since their clandestine design would obviously frustrate and disenfranchise many voters in areas not popular with Granger dictatorship.

With the billions of taxpayers’ dollars expended by GECOM, why are the operators making the system more complex for some voters rather than being simplified? It is therefore instructive and necessary that the Auditor General address the audits not conducted since 2014, following these elections to hold GECOM accountable to the National Assembly in view of its constitutional obligations.

This situation is certainly outright unacceptable and it plays on the electorate’s minds while putting their patience to the ultimate test as our nation sits on the edge of their seat. Never before in Guyana’s history did the electorate have to experience such nasty trauma and particularly, with such flawed systemic pressure pot system emanating from the clouded lens administrators in GECOM. However, it will soon end and the landslide victory will be most appropriate and convincing because of the voters’ will to overcome all obstacles.

It is significant to note that the United States and the Carter Center made a strong call for GECOM to clarify to stakeholders its vote tabulation procedures. Notably, former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, who is heading the high-level Commonwealth Mission, recently stated, “On Election Day, we will observe the opening, voting, closing, counting, and the results management process.” Certainly, these calls once operationalised, will lend a measure of assurance that keen monitoring will provide and ensure some credence to the internal results.

Further, the laws of Guyana on elections clearly stipulate that GECOM must provide the IT tabulation and the manual tabulation before announcing the elections results. So far, Keith Lowenfield and the GECOM Secretariat has not accepted the offer and support from the United Nations Development Programme to employ a special IT person. This is a matter of serious concern as it indicates reasons for justified suspicion and fairness.

Additionally, GECOM has not hired staff at all levels over the past few years in accordance with the electoral laws, which provides the full functional authority on the Commission. Instead, Lowenfield and his Secretariat are employing as they so please and largely to ensure an imbalance in favour of the PNC. Consequently, GECOM Commissioners who by law are responsible for the hiring of all staff, are now excluded from the recruiting of staff. This must change forthwith!

While the Chairwoman of GECOM has declared the organisation ready to host free and fair elections on March 2, 2020, one would have noted far too many undercurrents in the process building up to this stage. Because competing political parties would have had to adjust to the changing environment characterised by surprising changes and untimely details or the lack thereof, this would have served to highlight an unbalanced approach that has largely favoured the Granger cabal. There are many areas for improvement going forward which the Chairwoman must address.

Madam Claudette Singh should be, however, applauded for bringing on board the broad spectrum of observers whose mandate is to observe and evaluate the electoral process independently and impartially. They will also have a close look at the pre-election environment, polling day activities and the post-election period. Guyanese have experienced serious constraints by GECOM at every stage over the last few years, and the bungling is creating havoc. GECOM must be accountable, transparent and must be prepared to administer free and fair elections.

Notwithstanding the pitfalls, however, the challenges from all sides have served to ensure a more determined effort from the Opposition PPP/C and a reactive stronger ‘will’ by the people, to deliver an overwhelming victory on March 3, 2020. Polling must be early and swift as voters provide their guilty verdict on David Granger as charged. We look forward to GECOM and all party’s pronouncement of Mr Mohamed Irfan Ali as the Next President; Mr Mark Phillips as the Prime Minister and a triumphant PPP/C team that will progressively lead our dear country as one over the next term of office.

Neil Kumar

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