Worrisome advertisements have recently emerged under the auspices of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). They serve to boggle the mind of any right-thinking citizen regarding the priorities of those leading the institution. In particular, the recent advertisement inviting prequalifying consulting firms to design and provide a cost for the construction of a five-storey multipurpose complex is alarming, given the timing and context. A new building will not serve to eradicate the threat that the organisation now poses to itself and the nation!
Nothing could be further from the truth than the fact that a total overhaul of constitutional accountability is required. Abysmal considerations are perhaps a mild way of describing the scenario whereby GECOM is displaying an unconcerned disposition to the nation’s view of its untrustworthy and discredited image. Information received points to circumstances of no affirmative agreement made by the Commission on many of the actioned matters, and it begs the question as to who is making the decisions.
More than half of the registered voters at March 02, 2020 General and Regional Elections have not had the realistic taste of previous underhand roles played by covertly positioned GECOM officials until now. The playbook of rigging elections in favour of the PNC from the 1960s to 1992 has been brought out again. We cannot disregard the myriad discomforting issues that eventually progressed from areas subtly requiring slight corrections to glaring overtures challenged at a plethora of Commission meetings.
Never before had we witnessed such reactionary indecisiveness in the Commission, together with a Secretariat which continuously takes actions that usurp the Commission’s Authority. Indeed, during the last elections period, these were driven and supported by the PNC/APNU Commissioners, led by Vincent Alexander, who twisted the acceptable interpretation of numerous precedential approaches in defense of the Secretariat’s alarming actions and accommodation.
In the build-up to the August 02, 2020 crescendo, several alarming issues related to the rigging evolved. Among these are:
1. The eventual appointment of Chairwoman Madam Claudette Singh only came after the Caribbean Court of Justice kicked out David Granger’s appointee James Patterson, and his eternal sand-dancing in interpreting the Constitution, with accompanying delaying tactics in justifying his constitutional antics in putting up his and finally accepting one of the Opposition’s nominees.
2. The documented changing positions of the PNC Commissioners: Alexander, Corbin and Trotman, together with GECOM staff’s initial non-cooperation with the original CARICOM Recount Team, was most distasteful. Mr. Alexander’s subsequent outreach by way of a letter to CARICOM leaders overstepped many boundaries, given his role as a GECOM Commissioner, and it is applaudable that no CARICOM Head provided acknowledgment.
3. The use of GECOM funds to pay lawyers in supporting frivolous court matters tabled by the PNC/APNU/AFC in volunteering GECOM as a party to the No-Confidence Motion.
4. The crude attempts by GECOM staff to intimidate the local and foreign observers, and their silence on attempts to block the CARICOM Observers and the return of the Carter Center. The attempts by APNU-AFC operatives to intimidate the local and foreign observers as well as paid PNC and AFC counting agents to intimidate the local and foreign observers. And,
5. The brutal and shameless failure to reveal original statements of poll in the possession of GECOM officials.
With so many overwhelming concerns and actions the Commission should exhibit over the foregoing, we are witnessing a galore of GECOM advertisements, including the alarming one for the construction of a five-storey multi-complex building. However, while GECOM’s constitutional autonomy allows the organisation to address expenditures to the execution of elections matters, there is no evidence that this proposed building was the subject of any previously approved budgetary considerations. Further, it is only a few weeks ago that President Ali’s government confirmed the availability of funds in the upcoming 2121 budget for the scheduled Local Government Election.
It is time that Chairwoman Madam Claudette Singh get down to the business of assertively addressing the essential priorities, and have these approved by the COMMISSIONERS at the meeting of the COMMISSION, which must be done before the dissemination of instructions to the Secretariat. Further, staff who are before the courts and are paid taxpayers’ dollars should, at a minimum, be sent on administrative leave.
Attention must be given by the Commission to the dissenting treatment of the Canadian High Commissioner Lillian Chatterjee by Keith Lowenfield in her exit interviews which appeared in Freddie’s column of Kaieteur News. His responses are an affront to what we should expect of a GECOM staff member, and a glaring repeat of some of these experiences demands, as a priority, the need for the ultimate removal of all contaminants at the organisation.
It is therefore important that the Commission inform our nation of the status of the publicly condemned and charged officials, including the Chief Elections Officer, who many Guyanese and the international community contend can no longer stand up to public scrutiny. His factual unadulterated defiance of the Chairwoman and Commission of GECOM for the world to see needs no softening to instruct his swift removal from the organisation.
The lack of such action requires a public display of his contract, and explanations from the Chairwoman and Commission of GECOM for accommodating such obscenity. Our nation deserves to be informed about the steps being taken towards remedying the sullied credential and public image of the organisation.
Certainly, Madam Claudette Singh must be aware that we must be spared the frivolous pretense that nothing of significance has happened. The silence of GECOM’s Public Relations Department in this respect speaks decibels.
This writer is reliably informed that the multi-complex advertisements were not agreed upon at the Guyana Elections Commission, and there was no decision at this time for the discredited Secretariat to do any substantial work. The Chairperson must assert her good office and do not allow members of the Secretariat who are before the court for fraud to do any such business for GECOM. These attempts to deflect MUST not be allowed to overwhelm the real priorities.
Our nation will not forget that operatives of the GECOM Secretariat allegedly made deals concerning contracts in a hotel room just before the 2015 National and Regional Elections. GECOM’s dirty and highly questionable purchasing and procurement approach must be audited.
It is acknowledged that GECOM must eventually build a proper office, rather than continue paying millions of dollars in rent every month. However, we must first see the user-value of GECOM, and regain confidence in the organisation.
The way forward by the organisation must be officially discussed by the Commission, and be formally approved to inform the proper approach and decisions.