GECOM must honour requirements of recount order

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ANOHER week and another mountain of evidence unearthed to bring to the attention of GECOM and Guyana the extent to which some went to steal the government of Guyana. Another week and another set of attempts by the PPP to bully its way to power by changing the rules it agreed to. Another week and another set of attempts by external observer groups to usurp the role of GECOM and in the process assault Guyana’s sovereignty. Another week and another period of anxiety for the Guyanese people as they await an end to this long, winding road of self-searching.

From fake voters to dead voters to missing official documents to bloated voter-turnout, the instances of fraud keep coming to the fore. As recent as Friday, as many as 25 boxes from the East Coast of Demerara were discovered without accompanying documents. The East Coast of Demerara is part of the very Region Four, where the PPP claimed that its votes were allegedly stolen. This must be the biggest irony of the century whereby the accuser is found to be the accused. How can the absence of accompanying documents for so many ballot boxes from the strongholds of one participating party be a simple error?

If there were lingering doubts about the case being made by the APNU+AFC regarding the credibility of the elections, the discoveries this past week have put those to rest. The PPP has been arguing that GECOM does not have the authority to investigate and pronounce on the anomalies and irregularities uncovered by the coalition. We beg to differ. The recount order clearly says that the main objective of the exercise is to do precisely that. Here is what the order says in plain language: “And whereas the Guyana Elections Commission, in exercise of the authority vested in it under Article 162 of the Constitution and pursuant to Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act, No. 15 of 2000, seeks to remove difficulties connected with the application of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03, in implementing its decisions relating to the conduct of the aforementioned recount of all ballots cast at the said elections, including the reconciliation of the ballots issued with the ballots cast, destroyed, spoiled, stamped, and as deemed necessary, their counterfoils/ stubs; authenticity of the ballots and the number of voters listed and crossed out as having voted; the number of votes cast without ID cards; the number of proxies issued and the number utilised; statistical anomalies; occurrences recorded in the Poll Book.”

It is clear from that paragraph that the objective of the recount is to determine the credibility of the elections. Now, the PPP is attempting to disregard the recount order which it signed. It must be noted here that a gazetted order of this kind is a form of law– a supplementary law. It means GECOM is legally bound to satisfy the requirements of the order in its entirety. Nothing short of that would suffice. GECOM is not an arm of the PPP, nor is it the water-boy of external forces with biased agendas.

In this regard, we note that the OAS has pronounced on the recount before it is over. To begin with, such pronouncement is tantamount to direct interference in Guyana’s internal affairs in the most brazen manner. Second, the OAS’ pronouncement blatantly disregards the recount order. The OAS is telling Guyanese that the large volume of anomalies and irregularities are of no consequence, that they are mere irritants. Well, that is not a matter for the OAS; it is a matter for GECOM to decide. And further, we must add that in the case of a close election every single irregularity becomes pivotal to the final outcome. Finally, it is reckless for an organisation of such repute as the OAS to disregard the delicate nature of the situation in Guyana in pursuit of its solidarity with one contestant.

It is against this background that we call on GECOM to honour the letter and spirit of the recount order. The first line of action is to honestly and justly assess the mountain of evidence at its disposal. That has to be done in the context of the section of the order quoted above. We are aware that GECOM is under severe pressure from domestic and external forces, but its ultimate loyalty must be to the Guyanese people and the laws of the country.

We have now come to a pivotal moment in this long process which started long before polling day. It is important that we get it right. Too much is riding on such an outcome. Unfortunately, the recount has laid bare the kind of fraud that has plagued our electionss. This cannot be a time for business as usual. If we declare winners and losers while ignoring the high volume of demonstrated fraud, we would in effect be validating wrongdoing of the highest order, which could come back to haunt us yet again.