THIS week, there have been several developments that concern officials at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that no doubt affect its ability to be impartial and transparent whenever it is expected to host several general and regional elections in the near future.
Firstly, GECOM, since the last election, has been functioning in an irregular and very contentious atmosphere. GECOM still has not managed to catch itself after the fallout of the March 2, 2020 elections when Guyana was suspended for five months straight even though it was clear who had won the polls the first time and then the recount.
Secondly, GECOM is finding it difficult to institute the reforms that are no doubt necessary to hold a free, fair and free from fear electoral polls. It has taken it months to fire and discipline staff at the Secretariat who were accused of interfering with GECOM’s machinery and way of conducting electoral matters in the pre-, during and after electoral phases.
As a matter of fact, or truth, it has NOT fired the real culprits who are responsible for the election impasse. And despite letters surfaced in the media which purported to act on the directive of the majority of the Commission, there is no sign of a response or a change in the personnel.
All we know is that this week, GECOM Commissioners will debate and ‘vote’ on a motion that has been put to it for the dismissal of the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield; Deputy Elections Officer, Roxanne Myers, and the infamous Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo et al on various grounds.
To be more precise, it was reported that “the Commissioners said that Lowenfield breached his functions, duties, responsibilities and obligations when he neglected to ensure due adherence and compliance with the statutory process outlined in Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), Chapter 1:03 by Mingo, who was under his direct supervision. Mingo, according to the Commissioners, failed to follow the stipulated process of adding up the Statements of Poll (SoPs) for his District and Lowenfield aided in his noncompliance”.
Thirdly, there are still a number of charges in courts that require the full attention of the Commission as far as working along with the authorities is concerned as they seek justice and to strengthen the electoral process. Public charges are pending against Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo apart from what GECOM is seeking to do to them now. Now that the way is cleared for prosecutions to be ready for trial, the DPP and the police must ensure that they work hard, based upon the evidence, to secure convictions and find those guilty without a shadow of doubt.
And who could forget the failed APNU+AFC elections petition which has been appealed in the Courts. When will the reality hit home? They have not been successful – not because of efforts wanted or because their petition was misunderstood and ruled against prematurely- but it is wrong, false and laughable.
Finally, this phase that GECOM is going through is too long and time-consuming but it is necessary for due diligence, fairness and justice. GECOM has more battles waiting on it to get its act together. It has to be reformed if it is going to hold free, independent and fair elections in the near future.
When this hurdle has been passed, the Commission must pay attention to the laws governing how to appoint, discipline and terminate the services of intermediate and high-ranking officials. GECOM must also look at its timelines for holding an election and declaring a winner because the public will not put up with such a test to Guyana’s to democracy or the democratic principle that govern elections again, as seen last year.
GECOM must insist that politicians’ campaign to further clarify laws, and power of prorogation and dissolution of Parliament particularly on the event of a no-confidence motion.
GECOM must be aware that it is working for the people and no one else. It is answerable to the public. Whatever is decided on the way forward, there will be consequences for the status quo. It can’t be business as normal or usual. GECOM needs to rebuild or regain our confidence.