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The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), as the Administrator of Elections Legislation, must ensure the organization’s obligatory compliance with binding requirements on the institution of these and other applicable laws. The lack of internally and externally potent, proactive and decisive actions to deter evidence of non-compliance at various levels within the existing legal framework was insufficient to arrest open lawlessness by staff, and remains a grey area of concern.
The debacle and mayhem that took place at the hands of some GECOM officials during the infamous five threatening months in 2020 was inevitable. The catastrophe emerged almost unimpeded, with the acceleration of bright beacons of suspicious activities and policies from the GECOM Secretariat. These were characterized by flagrant and unbelievably late obligatory public notifications of impacting requirements and preparation in the lead-up to the March 2020 Elections.
Notwithstanding constitutional autonomy enshrined in measures of GECOM’s operations, the enforcement of the Auditor General’s observations and previous recommendations as main counterchecks of GECOM’s financial prudence was largely ignored. Signals informing the need for swift intervention were rendered toothless against revealed evidence of several malpractices under the responsibility of the Chief Elections Officer (CEO).
James Patterson, former President Granger’s unilaterally appointed Chairman of GECOM, initially led the lawlessness, absorbing the responsibility for the brunt of irrational supporting propositions of APNU Commissioners. Patterson’s ejection by the CCJ was followed by CEO Keith Lowenfield taking up the mantle, ignoring written and public objections for as long as he was allowed to act as a lone ranger in rolling out decisions usurping the Commission’s Authority. These were individually and severally coupled and delivered with the absence of necessary broad consultations of Opposition parties, and were shaded by far too obvious political partisanship of key operators. The framework highlighted a glaring lack of the necessary prudence to provide transparent results, and the acceptable embracing confidence of the majority of citizens.
For the then main PPPC Opposition, the hope that exposure and embarrassment may have forged measures of adjustments towards improved decency by officials, and in the applied procedure to improve the transparency of the process, did not make much of a difference. Rather, the Lowenfield cabal appeared more and more focused on imposing strategic elements of surprise, imbalance, and uncertainty that overwhelmed the importance of ensuring untainted GECOM officials operating in a framework that would turn out legitimate expectations.
Instead of fixing matters, the CEO chose to halt the submission of statutory reports. He appeared seemingly certain that his cabal could get away with ‘murder’, even if there were no accountability and transparency. In the circumstances, the PPPC and Opposition party’s only solace had to be committed to effective campaigning, publicising the wicked practices of APNU; strict monitoring in the places of poll, and secure verifications thereafter!
Reliable information confirms that there was no final report and discussion at the GECOM after the 2015, and 2016 Elections, while it is definite that there will be no report on the 2020 National and Regional Elections. After every National and Regional Election, it is the necessary protocol for all the Regional Officers (ROs) to provide a detailed report, accounting for the results of planned preparatory, actual, and post-election events. These reports are then forwarded to the CEO, who would compile the final report for a thorough interrogative discussion with the respective ROs at a special retreat along with the senior officials of GECOM.
Following the preparation and compilation of the final Commission report, supported by the audited financial accounts, it ought to be submitted for the scrutiny of the National Assembly.
The billion-dollar question is, why was there no Report prepared since the 2015 National and Regional Elections? The argument that Electoral Reforms are necessary to resolve these issues is useful, but one must consider the involvement of all relevant stakeholders using a phased approach. We must also differentiate between Constitutional Reforms and Electoral Reforms, given that some serious but futile discussions about Reforms took place during the ten years following 1995.
Notably, in those discussions, the PNCR representatives deliberately frustrated the work of the Special Task Force set up, causing the postponement of Local Government Elections for more than a decade. Consequently, the PPP/C must not allow any postponement of the LGEs, but support approaches that would advance the pertinent considerations and collective decision-making.
The issues and concerns about the 2020 debacle for five brutal months became clearer for all to see during the publicised recount process. The role of the GECOM Secretariat, and particularly those before the Courts for conducting malpractices in the attempt to rig and steal the Elections, has been exposed. It is therefore necessary to immediately reform such flagrant cover by clearing up and strengthening the statutory provisions concerning the Elections. In particular, the provisions must strengthen the Registration and the Representation of the People Acts.
This nation must be reminded that at the end of the voting process, all participating parties, including the APNU/AFC, announced that the 2020 National and Regional Elections were free and fair. However, it was the rogue elements in GECOM that were working with the PNC elements to rig the Elections, and activated their backup clandestine plan when the verification showed they were losing. Why? And how did Volda Lawrence’s signature get on the GECOM internally-controlled documents?
The issues concerning the documents that were not in the boxes in East Coast Demerara are clear. Those Presiding Officers were told not to put the Poll Books and the documents in the boxes by senior GECOM officials. However, the Presiding Officers had the documents in brown envelopes at the GECOM Office in the ‘Splash-Min’ building. GECOM must therefore cause an investigation of the relevant persons and staff regarding their reports, and genuine efforts must be put in place so that this nation is informed about what happened.
GECOM must be proactive and decisive in the effort to hold free and fair elections. The staff of the institution must win the confidence of this nation by exercising improvement in accountability, transparency, and integrity, which must be the hallmark of GECOM.