It is pre-emptive for anyone to pronounce on GECOM`s state of readiness for an unscheduled and unbudgeted for elections
Dear Editor, I note the reported response of GECOM’s Commissioner, Bibi Shadick, in the December 23rd edition of Stabroek News to questions posed to her by your reporter, Miranda La Rose, re GECOM’s capability to pull off General and Regional elections within the next ninety days. Ms. Shadick is quoted as saying “Yes. GECOM has just pulled off an elections. We don’t have to go back to creating a new list. Our list is valid. That is usually a delaying factor”. Immediately, the question of whether or not there are other factors to be considered comes to mind.
In her response Ms. Shadick is, for the purpose of political expediency, deliberately ignoring the arguments that have constantly been raised in GECOM’s several plenaries by the PPP Commissioners, as they have chosen to label themselves, including Commissioner Shadick herself, about the validity of the present list, which when the number of the electorate vis-avis the size of the population is taken into consideration lends support to the belief that it is an inflated list. Commissioner Shadick should say why it is they have been arguing at the level of the Commission that the list contains more than thirty thousand names of deceased persons who have departed the scene over a thirty year period and should be expunged prior to any General Elections being held and equate that position to one in which she now seems to have no problem with its size and purity.
Let me at the outset say that I have no interest in which party/contestant is declared the winner at the elections which are due. Elections either continue the existence of incumbents or usher in new governments. This one will be no different. My sole interest on the Commission is about ensuring that a level playing field is created to ensure that at the end of the process the results will be universally accepted as representing the will of all of the people in Guyana. In that situation I believe it is important to ensure that GECOM holds the elections with a voters list that is cleansed of all of its impurities. It is my understanding that Commissioners of GECOM had arrived at such a decision some years ago but funds were not made available for the conduct of the scheduled house-to-house registration, in keeping with the policy to conduct houseto-house registration every seven years. That decision was constantly reiterated to us by GECOM’s Secretariat. In this regard, the Commission deliberated on and approved the plan to conduct House to House Registration in 2019, to ensure the production of a new and more credible list prior to the holding of the next General and Regional Elections. The Secretariat prepared and presented its budgetary estimates for the approval of the Commission accordingly. These Commissionapproved estimates were later submitted to the Clerk of the National Assembly. The Committee of Supply of the National Assembly approved GECOM’s budget request with the funds allocated to GECOM for the conduct of this House to House Registration exercise in 2019. Should this exercise be abandoned now?
As far as I am aware there has been no allocation of funds to hold elections in Guyana in 2019. I am therefore concerned how and where the funds will come from and am therefore looking forward to a resolution to this issue. Presumably, this will be one of the issues which will engage President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo when they meet to discuss the way forward.
Commissioner Shadick seems to believe that there is no need to address the existing senior staff vacancies prior to the holding of the elections. I disagree with her view on this matter precisely for the reason I had previously explained. Filling those positions are extremely critical to ensuring that GECOM has the enhanced capacity to conduct the elections, notwithstanding the fact that that body was able to successfully conduct the 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE). Let us be clear on one thing LGEs and General and Regional elections are different types of elections with the results of the latter being more impacting on the life of a country, in this instance, Guyana. If Commissioners Benn and Shadick were not adamant in their decision not to interview available applicants for the positions until the Ethnic Relations Commission pronounced, what they hoped and continue to believe will be a favourable decision in keeping with the complaints they made about the employment practices in GECOM, those positions would have been filled a long time ago.
The successful conduct of the 2018 LGE is nothing short of a miracle by the CEO and his staff. They deserve the highest praise and compliments for performing over and beyond the call of duty. But executing the elections successfully was not without some serious jeopardies. Ms. Shadick is wrong. There were some major difficulties in the holding of the LGE. The reasons for some of them still have to be determined. GECOM, however, is being asked to carry out even more important elections without being given the opportunity to ascertain how and why some of the problems occurred and putting in place remedies to prevent occurrences in the affected areas. To understand the gravity of the problems GECOM was faced with I have to mention here that it was Commissioner Shadick herself who was first to emphasize that some of those issues, particularly those highlighted by a vigilant Commissioner Charles Corbin associated with errors in the design and printing of the tally sheets, which avoided the confusion that could have been caused at the tabulation of the results of the 2018 LGE, could have opened up GECOM to possible litigation thereafter. Are we going to proceed into another election without the review to which the Commission has already agreed?
Finally, I want to say that we hear a lot of talk of appointing people to act in the vacant positions. It was the same selflabeled PPP commissioners who objected to the secretariat’s utilization of members of the senior staff in the preparatory stages and in oversight functions of the 2018 LGE on the grounds that their presence in the specific positions represented a conflict of interest. The one best way to avoid these allegations is to employ suitably qualified persons to fill those vacant positions and to do so now.
What difference will a few days or weeks make if it contributes to making Guyana a better place for all of its citizens?
It is pre-emptive and probably contemptuous for anyone, GECOM commissioners included, to pronounce on GECOM`s state of readiness without first allowing the Secretariat to examine what are its needs, including the time required to conduct an unscheduled and unbudgeted for elections.
On a previous occasion Commissioner Alexander referred to Commissioner Shadick`s unilateral pronouncements and reports on GECOM as “unethical”. Juxtaposing her previous negative statements on the voters` list and GECOM`s staff preparedness to her recent pre-emptive and positive statement, it can only be assumed that her positions are contrived and agenda driven and should be taken for what they are worth. Yours faithfully, Desmond Trotman GECOM Commissioner