It is time for GECOM to be decisive!
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Dear Editor,
AS our nation looks forward to local government elections (LGEs) this year, all eyes are on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). For obvious reasons, the keenness of scrutiny is justified, given the 2020 March to August debacle at the hands of its corrupted secretariat officials. The snail’s pace of the chairperson and commissioners to make decisions and to institute corrective mechanisms that would halt its deteriorated public confidence is rather disappointing and must be condemned. GECOM must be more decisive.
The inaction and blatant pussy-footing by GECOM commissioners are exposing the lack of assertiveness in the leadership of the organisation. It is an absolute indictment of what is required and a definitive, contributory factor to the five months of ransom unleashed on our citizens. Mind-boggling is an understatement when one considers that all are aware that these undercurrents have realised the transitioning of the organisation beyond its lowest level of public acceptability.

From the foregoing, it is rational for one to conclude that failure to act appropriately is indicative of untoward intent and posture. One that confirms the overwhelming public perception that the ‘barely surviving position’ of GECOM would not have been managed, had it not been for the bold international rejection and almost national civil uprising. It is indeed lamentable that despite these most damning threats to itself and the nation it ought to be serving, they seem incapable of adrenalising some self-surviving initiatives.
There have been numerous recommendations by electoral observers from leading global democracies concerning reforms that could improve our electoral system. To these, there has been a thunderous silence regarding the chairperson and the commissioners’ consideration or reactions. However, there is no doubt that the commission has sufficient legal support to improve its internal operations and functions, and these must be used to win back the confidence and trust of our nation.

The riggers must be removed immediately as GECOM cannot continue to have the fraudsters on its payroll. While we agree that electoral and constitutional reforms are urgently needed, we must also have a system in place to hold local government elections now. Importantly, the commission at the helm of GECOM cannot ignore the importance and necessity for the LGEs, as they play a central and critical role in advancing community development in parallel with national development initiatives. Our country could ill afford these further ransom positions and the PPP/C must not allow the PNC and its dictatorship mouthpieces to further delay the LGEs.

Editor, please allow me the latitude of pointing out that constitutional reform is a big and massive endeavour that will take a very long time. Among the myriad reasons is the complex situation in Guyana, informed by a brand of political peculiarities, unlike any global other. When coupled with the PNC’s demonstrated high level of irrationality, constitutional reforms will be gruelling and time-consuming. Having lived through the struggle our nation faced during the ‘cheating’ legacy of the PNC from the 1950s, my experience and that of many Guyanese from this period provide testimony to the almost impossible task of arriving at a constitutional position that would be fair or neutral.

Given our political framework, therefore, special arrangements regarding the scope and procedural approach will have to be attended to as a starting point to conduct meaningful and necessary constitutional reform. Accordingly, the previous chair of the special task force set up to address such matters, Attorney General Mr. Anil Nandlalall, pointed out that these are required ‘to ensure that the law is changed at various intervals so that it is always in sync with the evolutionary changes in a society, and so that the law does not become abstract and archaic, but that the law remains dynamic and is changed to meet the exigencies of an evolving society.”

While it is accepted that some measure of consensus may eventually be arrived at after some lengthy and gruelling attempts to frustrate the process by the opposition nay-saying PNC, it will be non-productive and sub-optimal for GECOM to halt all elections, including the scheduled LGEs, until these updates are made. Consequently, it is my honest opinion that Guyanese must at this time look immediately at electoral reform. Electoral reform, contextually, refers to the necessary legal adjustments that would ensure the removal of inhibitions to the holding of elections that are free and fair. As the responsible constitutional body, GECOM must elevate itself to an organisational status that is credible, accountable, and fully transparent in delivering our elections.

Towards the foregoing, there is no doubt that the staff at GECOM will have to be men and women with integrity and candour, who MUST operate in a system of sufficient counterchecks that will facilitate audits and guarantee credible results. Towards this end, GECOM will have to objectively take decisive action against those responsible for the execution of its strategic operational delivery in its secretariat.

We can no longer tolerate the lack of efficacy demonstrated particularly, by the Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield and all those who are before the courts for electoral malpractices during the 2020 elections. It is the commission that has overwhelming responsibility for the training and recruitment of the staff at GECOM, and this should never again be solely delegated to the CEO of the secretariat, while reneging on its responsibilities. Overseeing and/ or approval of same must be done by the commission and the chairperson and her commissioners must, accordingly, be held accountable.

In the preparation for timely LGEs, the chairperson of GECOM must assert herself in ensuring the absolute clean-up of the organisation. A criteria-based system of determining and selecting staff acceptable to the commission must be instituted after the riggers are dismissed. Staff behaviour must be tenable and therefore monitored to target a team of credible players that will support the strategic agenda of the commission to hold free and fair elections.
We must not hide our heads in the sand like ostriches, pretending that we do not know what we have at GECOM. The time for GECOM to decisively deal with her internal cancers and hire honest and decent staff is now.

Yours sincerely,
Neil Kumar

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