Under the current disturbing circumstances in Guyana, which led to an urgent visit there by five Caricom Prime Ministers, headed by Chair Mia Mottley of Barbados, and included Dr. Keith Rowley, democracy is being defied. Caricom’s advise to have a proper count of the ballots is defied. The electoral commission, charged with ensuring a free and fair elections, is not listening. A free and fair election was held but the count is fraudulent.
The edifice of democracy, which began construction in 1992 after almost three decades of dictatorship, seems to be in danger. The trust of a transparent electoral process, so key to the foundations of a democracy, seems lost after free and fair elections were held on March 2. PM Mia Mottley appealed for a transparent process and the rule of law. But they are being ignored.
So many (from the elections commission) have been culprits in hijacking the electoral and democratic process; they have been engaged in immoral, unethical and illegal activities. The conduct and behavior of some individuals, in particular, the Chair and CEO of the elections commission (Gecom), who should be a paragons of virtue and defenders of democracy, have brought utter shock to the population, diplomats, observers, and media including Trinis who came to report on the elections. Words cannot describe the conduct of some Gecom personnel. Are their alleged illegal actions deliberate? Are they complicit in any plan or conspiracy to derail the electoral process? Are they biased towards one party?
The entire electoral process and the behavior of key individuals of Gecom, not least being the Chair, CEO, Deputy CEO, Public Relations Officer, Region 4 Returning Officer, among others, merit full investigation and enquiry, so that persons responsible for attempts at derailing the democratic electoral process are exposed and punished. The conduct of Gecom’s staff raises questions about Guyana’s constitutional propriety, electoral procedure, and transparency. All of these would have to be addressed by the legislature whenever a winner a declared. Would the right winner be declared? It does not seem so.
Regardless of which party one supports in Guyana, freedom fighters and lovers of democracy (those who fought for constitutional rule) of the 1960s thru 1992 must not leave any stone unturned to ensure the triumph of the ballot over bullet and of democracy, to support the transparency of the electoral process, and to uphold constitutional governance, and the values enshrined therein as well as in the Election laws of the country. Supporting a particular party should not be used as a justification to close one’s eyes to electoral fraud or to condone electoral skullduggery. The entire Guyanese nation must come together to foil any attempt by Gecom to perpetrate electoral fraud on the nation. The entire Caribbean region must support the people of Guyana in their demands for the law to take its course and every Statements of Poll (SOPs) be verified as in the possession of every party agent.
An attempt was made to declare fraudulent results last Thursday.There is a dispute over the count in Region 4 (of ten regions). The Guyana court ruled on Wednesday how verification of Region 4 count should take place. Statements of polls (SOPs) as obtained on election day March 2, a copy of which from each polling station was displayed publicly and of which every party was entitled, must be used to verify (ascertain) the count and from which the outcome would be declared. Anything short of that requirement would be defying the court’s order and defrauding the voters of their will (which party they wish to govern them). In addition, any other process would be a violation of the election law that clearly states that SOPs must be used to ascertain counts and to declare a winner.
There are credible allegations that Gecom personnel defied the court’s order. There was sheer mockery of the rule of law (defying orders enunciated by the Chief Justice) on Thursday as there were of the electoral process a week earlier. The court, its Marshalls, and the police must be used to execute the orders of the court to ascertain the vote count using SOPs. Since Gecom is in default of carrying out the orders of the court, then it is advised that the court supervise the verification of the Region 4 ballots. This is the only way to save democracy in Guyana.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram* (*The writer played a significant role in the struggle for restoration of democracy in Guyana)