–says PPP/C; Guyana should welcome electoral reform, contends Datadin
THE People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has labelled the criticisms against the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) project on electoral reforms as “duplicitous and disingenuous”.
Through the U.S. Department of State backed 18-month project, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Attorney-General’s Chambers and various civil society organisations (CSOs) are expected to advocate for electoral reform in accordance with regional and international standards.
It was reported that the stakeholders will collaborate to improve local electoral systems, and knowledge about constitutional law, establish an internal timeline to address electoral reform, improve collaboration for joint advocacy actions, and prioritise electoral and constitutional law issues, all while promoting reform through citizen engagement.
The project, however, has received much criticism from The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the opposition-nominated GECOM commissioners, and the African Cultural & Development Association (ACDA) among others.
The PPP/C has posited that the role of the IRI is being “manipulated and misrepresented” to win political partisanship and ethnic sentiments. In making its claim, the PPP/C noted in a press release on Thursday that the IRI is not a new organisation to Guyana, as it has worked extensively with the A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government prior to the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“The International Republican Institute is not new to Guyana, and is part of a constellation of organisations that have worked to improve Guyana’s democratic process over the years. Indeed, the very APNU+AFC Coalition which is condemning the IRI now was comfortable in partnering with the very IRI during the 2011 and 2015 electoral campaigns across the country,” the PPP/C said in its press release.
It also highlighted that the IRI, in 2014, had supported the formation of The Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC) which executed an extensive voter-education campaign targeting youths, entitled “Vote Like a Boss”.
The party has noted that it was their intention, from the time they assumed office, to undertake electoral reforms that are government-driven, and that in doing so, the government will accept assistance from, and work with, international organisations willing to offer aid.
“Needless to say,” the PPP/C says in the release, “it is downright naive for anyone to think that such a process can be undertaken without the input of the major opposition political party in Guyana. The law reforms must be done through the Parliament, and the Opposition will have an input both in and out of parliament.”
Last Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon and his team, comprising of Aubrey Norton, Khemraj Ramjattan, Amanza Walton-Desir, and Roysdale Forde, met with IRI Resident Director, Dorota Ryzy and its local representative, Sarah Bharrat to discuss their concerns.
NO POLITICAL MOTIVE
At the meeting, Harmon expressed that he is of the opinion that the PPP/C Government may have intended to use the IRI as “an instrument to destroy the democratic processes in Guyana, and to fortify themselves in office”. He, however, said that the IRI’s Director has reassured him that there is no political motive involved.
Ramjattan, the former Minster of Public Security under the APNU+AFC coalition government, while appearing on a Facebook programme, called “Politics 101”, with WPA executive member, Dr. David Hinds last Thursday, expressed the view that the IRI should be given the opportunity to execute its mandate, as he had the privilege of addressing certain concerns with its Resident Director during her meeting with members of the Opposition last Tuesday.
The GHRA, in denouncing the IRI, had noted that the organisation’s affiliation with the United States Republican Party is worrying, and noted that “continued association with Republican politics, even with ‘Republicanism lite’ in the form of the IRI is unacceptable”. However, Ramjattan sought to explain to his followers on Facebook that while the Republican Party forms the trustees of the IRI, it does not influence their work.
“It is important that we understand, too, what is this IRI all about. It is my view, and having worked with them, to the extent of being associated with them in that 2013 – 2016 period… it had its origins in 1982, when Ronald Regan decided that both parties should have a foundation that should be sponsored by the State Department to have democracy globally enhanced,” he said.
“IRI was the foundation step up by State Department allocations, and I think they can also get monies from charities and a whole host of other places for this global democratic objective. The Republican Party … they are the trustees for IRI, but when it has a programme like this, they have to accept the existing State Department guidelines as to how they operate in the various counties that they go to,” he added.
PPP/C Member of Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin, appearing on a Facebook programme entitled “Let’s Talk Politics” with Edward Layne as host, expressed the view that “no sane person” will think that Guyana does not need every assistance it can get with its electoral process, as he referenced the elections fiasco that followed the March 2, 2020 General and Region Elections.
“The system needs changing; there are things that need to be done. Our laws need to be amended; our Constitution needs to be strengthened. We cannot have people who are public officials working at GECOM deciding what they want to do, and have that charade that we had to go through; it is so painful,” Datadin said, adding:
“The only way to ensure it happens, is that we have to get some reform; we’ve got to put laws in place, and our Constitution has got to be adjusted, so that these mathematical geniuses; these ‘wordologists’ don’t twist things that are plain simple English, into things, and hold the nation at ransom.”
In addressing the GHRA’s calls for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to be at the helm of electoral reforms, rather than the IRI, Datadin said that while he is certain that CARICOM will provide assistance, the situation should be confronted from a realistic approach, taking into consideration factors currently affecting CARICOM nations; factors such as the COVID-19 virus and the recent La Soufrière volcanic eruption on the island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
“There is no reason why we can’t listen to IRI and CARICOM as well; it’s not an ‘either-or-situation’. We should engage everyone that is willing to engage with us. My personal view is, I don’t see it as being a CARICOM issue and IRI issue; this is an issue that really and truly has to be solved by our Parliament and our agencies, and it is really something that we need to have a hard conversation about,” Datadin said, adding: “But there is absolutely no reason why we can’t seek guidance; get the opinions of those experienced with it. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we don’t need to criticise and complain about assistance for the sake of complaining.”