Un­aware that any po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion in­tent on stymieing hold­ing of LGE

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS - Sun Mon hrs Oct 7, 2018 Oct 8, 2018 15:15 - 16:45 hrs 15:55 - 17:25

Dear Ed­i­tor, At a press con­fer­ence on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 5, 2018, Guyana Elec­tions Com­mis­sion Chair­man, Jus­tice (Ret’d) James Pat­ter­son, seems to have adopted the tac­tic of mak­ing un­sub­stan­ti­ated charges about ‘racial con­flict’, and ef­forts to stymie the hold­ing of Lo­cal Govern­ment Elec­tions (LGE) at the level of the Com­mis­sion it­self, and ex­ter­nal to it.

It is re­gret­table that the Chair­man of an Elec­tions Com­mis­sion would go pub­lic to try to de­flect and ob­fus­cate the jus­ti­fi­able crit­i­cisms of GE­COM. Ar­ti­cle 162 of the Con­sti­tu­tion man­dates GE­COM to al­ways act fairly and im­par­tially. It would ap­pear that the GE­COM Chair­man is adopt­ing the lan­guage of the APNU, which fre­quently re­sorts to charges of race when valid is­sues which war­rant se­ri­ous re­flec­tion, de­lib­er­a­tion and ac­tion, are raised at the na­tional level. This be­hav­iour read­ily re­sults in the po­lar­i­sa­tion of the Guyanese peo­ple on the ba­sis of eth­nic­ity.

Fur­ther, it is even more as­ton­ish­ing that any­one would char­ac­terise ef­forts to rec­tify il­le­gal­i­ties, as war­rant­ing a chal­lenge by a mem­ber of the le­gal pro­fes­sion against ‘the mis­use of the le­gal sys­tem’!

I would like to clear up some of the real mis­chief em­bed­ded in the wild as­ser­tions of the GE­COM Chair­man.

On the as­ser­tion that he makes of racially mo­ti­vated po­lit­i­cal bick­er­ing, I want to re­mind the pub­lic that I raised an is­sue of lack of di­ver­sity in the es­tab­lish­ment and hir­ing prac­tices at GE­COM, where I iden­ti­fied that up to 90 per­cent of the top­man­age­ment at GE­COM is dom­i­nated by one group, and that it was wrong in prin­ci­ple for any group to have such dom­i­nance in what is a crit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion, given the di­verse na­ture of our so­ci­ety. Be­cause there was strong feel­ing about this mat­ter, it was felt nec­es­sary to bring it to the at­ten­tion of the Eth­nic Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion. This mat­ter is un­der that Com­mis­sion’s dili­gent re­view, which has, so far, re­sponded as be­fits its man­date. I might point out that the stake­holder group to which I be­long at the Com­mis­sion is the most di­verse in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of gen­der, age range and eth­nic­ity. And I am al­most cer­tain that the Com­mis­sion­ers on all sides would be sur­prised at the charge of racially mo­ti­vated bick­er­ing, given the de­cided ef­fort of all par­ties to have a di­ver­si­fied elec­toral ap­peal.

On the as­ser­tion of ‘de­signs and machi­na­tions’ to stymie the hold­ing of the LGE, one should not have to in­form the Chair­man that lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions are elec­tions by them­selves, in sep­a­rate Lo­cal Author­ity Ar­eas, Con­stituen­cies and Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. If, for rea­sons of death, ties and Court de­ci­sions, elec­tions have to be held out­side of the ap­pointed date, the laws make pro­vi­sion for that to oc­cur.

For the Chair­man, a for­mer judge, to speak about ‘the mis­use of the Court sys­tem’ and it be­com­ing ‘a tool of dis­rup­tion’, deeply trou­bling.

The Chair­man has to re­call that the ba­sic man­date of GE­COM is to pro­vide for free, fair, trans­par­ent, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally ver­i­fi­able demo­cratic elec­tions in Guyana. No re­sort to the Courts of the cur­rent mat­ters re­lat­ing to the re­quired le­gal process for the dis­man­tling of LAAs and the dec­la­ra­tion is of new ones by the Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ties, Ron­ald Bulkan, in the face of ‘charges of bias’ and ‘ger­ry­man­der­ing’, could be termed as ‘dis­rup­tive and a mis­use of the le­gal sys­tem’. GE­COM it­self, as the stew­ard and cus­to­dian of the elec­tions process, should be happy to have these is­sues fairly and ex­pertly re­viewed and pro­nounced on by the Court sys­tem. How could ef­forts to re­move fraud­u­lent names – ei­ther of can­di­dates or from lists of nom­i­na­tors, come un­der such at­tack? Is the Chair­man him­self un­aware that an Elec­tions Pe­ti­tion re­lat­ing to the 2015 Na­tional and Re­gional Elec­tions has been, seem­ingly, lan­guish­ing in the Courts, and is it not in his best in­ter­est, as

Chair­man of the Elec­tions Com­mis­sion to have it heard quickly even af­ter three years?

I have the un­for­tu­nate duty to re­mind the Chair­man that he was the prime ac­tor, af­ter an in­vi­ta­tion to the United Na­tions was made and ac­cepted, to have in­ter­na­tional tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise hired at UN cost to as­sist GE­COM with cer­tain crit­i­cal is­sues re­lat­ing to ad­vice on the up­grade of elec­tions tech­nol­ogy and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The re­fusal to meet the UN in Guyana as sched­uled at the in­stance of the Chair­man, as was his stud­ied re­fusal – in ex­cess of three weeks – to deign a re­ply to the UN in ex­pla­na­tion, was a grave er­ror and em­bar­rass­ment to GE­COM.

Be­yond truly tak­ing up his con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and es­chew­ing badly timed histri­on­ics, Mr Pat­ter­son needs to of­fer gen­uine ex­pla­na­tions for cer­tain re­cent ques­tion­able hir­ings in which he has had a di­rect role, and for the pref­er­en­tial treat­ment of a newly hired staffer.

Also, he should not ap­pear to be sup­port­ing the se­ri­ous in­dis­cre­tions of GE­COM staff, par­tic­u­larly in not of­fer­ing ac­cept­able ex­pla­na­tions for the dis­ap­pear­ance of CEO Lowen­field for some ten hours at a crit­i­cal time on Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 26, last, which al­lowed for the non-re­moval and, there­fore, ac­cep­tance of fraud­u­lent names on lists by GE­COM Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cers in a num­ber of ar­eas.

I can list at least ten im­por­tant and crit­i­cal mat­ters for which the con­tin­u­ing si­lence, dila­tory ex­cuses and de­layed con­sid­er­a­tions by the Chair­man, is hav­ing se­ri­ous neg­a­tive im­pacts on the im­prove­ment in the man­age­ment and ef­fi­ciency of the GE­COM in achiev­ing the ul­ti­mate goal of hav­ing free and fair elec­tions in Guyana.

Lastly, I am un­aware, both at GE­COM and with the ob­vi­ous en­ergy and in­ter­est be­ing ex­erted by stake­hold­ers and elec­tors, that any po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion is in­tent on stymieing the hold­ing of the LGE. Given his unique place­ment at GE­COM and the ev­i­dence of LGE ac­tiv­ity thus far, this con­clu­sion of the Chair­man of GE­COM is, in­deed, re­mark­able.

I can only leave it to the me­dia, and the pub­lic, at this time, to con­sider this and to ar­rive at their own de­lib­er­ate con­clu­sions. Yours faith­fully, Robe­son Benn GE­COM Com­mis­sioner

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