It is pre-emp­tive for any­one to pro­nounce on GECOM`s state of readi­ness for an un­sched­uled and un­bud­geted for elec­tions

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

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

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