The New GECOM Chairperson: Triumph of Reason over Partisanship
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AFTER weeks of trying, President David Granger and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, on Friday agreed on Justice Claudette Singh as the new chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Both leaders should be congratulated for what, in the circumstances, turned out to be a challenging exercise. Just when the society at large was becoming restless over the gathering gridlock, reason triumphed over partisan considerations. It shows that when our two major political forces put their heads together in the interest of the country, positive outcomes are possible. Consensus is always difficult in plural societies, but it is not impossible. In fact, cooperation and consensus are also natural outcomes of pluralism.

President Granger must be specially commended for the quiet dignity that he brought to the process. He withstood the bullying tactics of the other side and the blistering but baseless criticisms from sections of the media and Civil Society by keeping his focus on the principle of fairness and the rule of law. His was an example to aspiring leaders on how to conduct the nation’s business with a sense of purpose and uprightness. He showed that the answer to vitriol is not counter vitriol. The holder of the highest office must at all times point the country to the higher ground. All Guyana, regardless of political affiliation, could be proud of the Head of State.

The Opposition leader, in the end, succumbed to the logic of the example set by His Excellency. It was difficult not to see the light in the face of the President’s relentless adherence to what he saw as the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ’s) clear directive to the two leaders. The well-known PPP tactic of brinksmanship eventually could not be sustained. We hope that the opposition has learned the hard lesson that cooperation and compromise are superior political tools to unilateralism and zero-sum engagement.

The CCJ, recognising the urgency of the matter and mindful of the difficult political environment, had opened the door for such consensus when it urged that the President must play a meaningful role in the process. In other words, the court removed unilateralism from the process both in the final selection of the chairperson and from the compilation of the list from which that person is chosen. While the PPP and others initially argued that that directive departed from the letter of the law, it was clear that it did not violate its spirit. Sometimes a strict reading of the letter of the law in isolation from its spirit could be counterproductive. It certainly is at this point in time.

Now that the GECOM Chairperson is in place by consensus, we hope that all sides would give her the cooperation needed to discharge her duties in a fair and impartial manner. Hers is perhaps the most difficult job after the presidency. She holds the casting vote in an otherwise partisan commission—that is a tremendous responsibility that requires courage. We wish Justice Singh well and from what can be gleaned from her sterling legal career, she seems up to the challenge. All Guyanese should also pressure their leaders to ensure that the atmosphere of respect should be maintained. Justice Singh needs the confidence of all sides of the political architecture.

Her first task is to deliver credible elections. Many observers have already dubbed the coming elections “the mother of all elections”. As such, all political sides would be doing everything in their power to influence the process. Given our long history of contentious elections, the Chairperson and her co-commissioners must keep their hands firmly on the wheel. One side has already shown that it is prepared to bully its way in pursuit of its ultimate goal. It is incumbent on the Commission to rise above the fray and bat for all Guyana, but do so in a manner that privileges morality over immorality.

It is instructive that the new chair is a woman. This should not be lost on those who have tirelessly advocated for gender equality in the highest seats of decision-making. Being a woman does not automatically mean superior decisions, but it offers a different dimension to the seat of power. We hope that Justice Singh can be an example to young women aspiring to high office.

In the last analysis, Guyana has survived another challenge to its reason for being. Some had feared that external forces would have had to intervene to bring about a resolution. Thankfully, that was not required. We hope that the spirit that delivered this decision would prevail as we confront other challenges in the coming weeks and months. But for now, let us congratulate ourselves for weathering and overcoming this initial storm. The world and the ancestors are watching.

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