It is with great sadness that I read of the passing of former Chancellor of the Judiciary Cecil Kennard. He served the nation with distinction even after retirement and not holding any official title or responsibility. The nation and I have held enormous respect for the legal luminary, a man of impeccable integrity. Many kind words, all deserving, have been uttered about his role in the judiciary and in public service commission. But I also know another side of him that few are aware of — he helped rescued democracy or protect against fraud during the attempt to change the verdict in the 2020 elections. A few giants, unknown to the public, played behind the scene roles in securing the democratic outcome in 2020. Cecil Kennard was one of them. Only a handful of individuals knew of the unsung, unknown quiet but critical roles played by a few, including this writer, behind the scenes in the five months election saga. They are heroes in their own right.
Since we are observing the second anniversary of the attempted rigging, a tribute to the Chancellor is apt. Regrettably, because I swore confidence, I am circumspect in giving much details for fear of exposing the roles of others in securing free and fair elections in Guyana when an attempt was made to rig the elections. I do not know if he would have approved of this expose in the media of his role in securing the right count of the vote. His role needs to be in the public domain.
While I knew of and read about the former Chancellor and his rulings during his reign as a judge, it was during the 2020 election fiasco that we interacted a lot. This was facilitated by an engineer businessman from the East Coast who also played a major role in deterring electoral fraud. The engineer businessman appealed to me to engage the Chancellor who, the businessman felt, held sway over key election staff who would resist incentives to rig. The businessman also funded anti rigging activities unknown to political actors and was a critical source of vital information to expose and deter rigging. I was not a recipient of his funding; I volunteered my skill and also contributed financially to free and fair elections. The businessman and I worked as a team without public knowledge to expose the strategies of attempted fraud which I did skillfully in the public domain without compromising anyone. I utilized my limited PR skill to expose and stymie aspects of the strategies of rigging. He appealed to me to work the phone apprising international forces of the planned rigging. I also passed on information to observers and key election staff. Another prominent businessman in Georgetown offered me encouragement in my interaction with the Chancellor and with an influential foreign observer; this businessman has been very supportive of several charitable causes and with helping youngsters with their education. But it was the Chancellor who helped in ensuring that the final declaration of the results reflected the will of voters. He had his own way of doing things. I appealed to him with suggestions what to do. I didn’t ask how he would do it or what he did. I was only interested in the end result, the outcome, free and fair elections.
Chancellor Kennard was always very pleasant in conversations and related how much he looked forward to reading my countless outpourings in the media over the last several decades. He praised my writings. He came alight whenever we spoke and looked forward for the exchanges with me, and we spoke regularly during those five months of attempted rigging and several months after. The conversations were often long. Post August 2, 2020, following declaration of results, the interactions were about governance. He was disappointed with a few appointments especially a few who previously served as Ministers. (I wont mention their names).
Justice Kennard was very concerned about electoral fraud in the 2020 elections, and he expressed this fear in our very first conversation right after the delay in declaring the outcome of the March 2 vote. He experienced riggings between 1966 and 1992 and the resulting authoritarian governance during which the judiciary was compromised. He wished not a repeat. Who would? No one who respects and desires freedom would want to live through such hard times again between 1966 and 1992.
The East Coast engineer businessman nudged me to have an ongoing interaction with the former Chancellor appealing to him to use his influence with election personnel (with whom he enjoyed good relations) to do the right thing. Mr. Kennard would play a key role in the declaration of the right outcome as reflected in the certified vote count.
In our very first exchange, Chancellor Cecil Kennard and I agreed that the will of the voters must prevail and that we must do all we could to ensure that the vote count was an accurate reflection of the way the nation voted. We both resolved and were determined to prevent rigging and to ensure that the people involved in managing the elections would do the right thing and not allow the bed sheet count to prevail. We wanted every vote to be accurately counted and that the right winner declared and accepted by the political parties and population.
Both the Chancellor and I worked behind the scenes confidently engaging associates involved in election management. He was well respected among election staff. We succeeded in convincing key personnel to follow the election law, respect court rulings, not to support or encourage electoral fraud, not to violate the constitution, and to certify the original SOPs (the Recount SOPs). Because of the enormous respect election personnel had for him, he succeeded in prevailing upon them not to rig the election outcome. Some staff were determined to rig the election but other key staff were stumbling blocks to rigging. In the end, the election personnel that the Chancellor and I engaged did the right thing. They gave us an accurate recount of the ballots which the Chair of GECOM accepted as the basis for the declaration.
I am grateful for the role played by the former Chancellor in outcome of the 2020 elections. I am sure the nation is also grateful that democracy prevailed. I would like to think that in his own way he helped saved our democracy in 2020 as did the diplomats, observers, ABC countries, the East Coast businessman, among others. I think the nation owes Cecil Kennard a debt of gratitude for whatever role he played in 2020. Had the Chancellor or Engineer businessman or international community not been involved, would the outcome of the 2020 election been the same? The Chancellor did complain to me about some appointments in the new administration. He asked me to relay his complaint to one specific person. He emphasized, you say to (name of the person mentioned) that I am dissatisfied with the appointment of (name mentioned) and should be revoked”. I did not convey the message fearing a backlash.
I bid farewell to this gentleman former Chancellor of the judiciary, a fellow warrior who helped to save Guyana’s democracy in 2020.
By Dr. Vishnu Bisram