Our country is in a state of upheaval and the cause of it all is the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). By choosing to ignore the will of the Guyanese people and their right to have their votes tabulated in a transparent manner GECOM has now lost all credibility and is perceived as being biased by a large section of the population. Hundreds of people went to the streets to protest because of the unethical actions of GECOM and now a protester is dead and many injured including children and police officers. In addition, there are reports of robberies and assaults. Would these things have happened if GECOM had just continued the process of verification of SOPs instead of producing figures out of thin air?
I am particularly ashamed at the conduct of the VIPs at GECOM because they held training sessions with thousands of Election Day temporary staff across the country and their behaviour is the exact opposite of what they preached to us. I worked as a Presiding Officer for Lusignan East on Election Day and had to undergo several rounds of training before March 2. On the first day of training I was given a manual which GECOM staff used to train us. On page 11 of the manual there is a section called ‘Code of Conduct for Officials’ and a part of that states, ‘Each of your actions must reflect the highest standards of: integrity, neutrality, transparency and fairness.’ Do the actions of those imbued with power at GECOM reflect the ‘Code of Conduct for Officials’ as stated in GECOM’s training manual? I call upon the VIPs at GECOM to be the role models for the thousands of GECOM temporary staff who worked tirelessly on E-Day by doing the right thing. We say that adults know right from wrong, well the leaders at GECOM should set the example and do the right thing; let your actions embody the mantra of integrity, neutrality, transparency and fairness which you preach at every training session.
Editor, on E-Day I woke up at 3 am and returned home at approximately 11:30 pm. All day long we sat on hard school benches without the comfort of air-conditioning or fans and didn’t even receive a cup of coffee from GECOM to fight the fatigue. The washroom was dirty and we had to take quick bites of food when the lines eased up a bit but we all did our jobs to the best of our abilities because we were well aware of how vital our roles were to the electoral process. The fruit of our labour was a Statement of Poll to be proud of because all the votes cast at our station were valid and the polling agents from the PPP/C and APNU+AFC were in agreement with the final tally and signed the SOP. Everything was done in a transparent manner.
After the close of poll when I commenced the count each ballot paper for General and Regional elections was shown to the entire team including the polling agents and all were given tally sheets. During the count, many times I stopped to ensure everyone was in agreement with the figures we had and at the end of it although they all agreed with the figures, I still quickly counted the votes for each party to ensure accuracy. If during the count anyone had objected, I would have started over. The process took hours and we were tired but we forged ahead. I was never told of any other way to do the count by GECOM. I was never told that I could have simply presented figures to the team after doing a quick count on my own which would have resulted in all of us going home early.
Editor, I write because the VIPs at GECOM have shamed us with their actions and I do not care if I am never hired in the future. At least, I won’t have to listen to hypocrites preaching about integrity, transparency etc., and frightening me with threats of having to face the courts if I do not abide by the code of conduct. I was hired to do a job on March 2, and I did it to the best of my abilities while demonstrating the qualities of transparency, neutrality, integrity and fairness. That job is over but I still remain a resident of Lusignan and I stand with the people of Lusignan who demand that the tabulation of votes for Region 4 be done in a transparent manner.
Although I have absolutely no political affiliations – space does not permit me to go into that – and do not care if the PPP/C or APNU+AFC forms the new government, I do care that the new government was elected fairly and reflects the will of the people. We should never allow a dictatorship to take hold in our land and there are certain things that all Guyanese should care about regardless of personal views. Regardless of which party forms the new government all Guyanese should be aware of the fact that the resources of this country belong to the people of Guyana and not politicians. Politicians are accountable to us and if you have bad managers what do you do? You just vote them out when elections come around. People need to stop seeing race and start looking at policies.
Editor, I speak out because I believe in free and fair elections. I also believe that we should respect the will of the people and their right to elect a leader of their choice. We have a system where the majority decides and that hasn’t changed, regardless of our personal views we need to respect this. There will always be die-hard supporters of political parties who only see ‘us versus them’ and we may have protest actions by these people even if it is shown that their parties lost but when you take away ‘transparency of the process’ who really knows the truth? If GECOM conducts itself in a fair and transparent manner then its credibility remains and confidence in its abilities to conduct free and fair elections is restored. I implore GECOM to continue with the verification of SOPs from Region 4, and abide by what you told thousands of your staff to do on E-Day.
Presiding Officer, Lusignan East