The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has taken note of the public discussions which now surround the agreement for a new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Those discussions evoke memories of a period when free and fair elections, a main pillar of modern democratic societies, were denied to the Guyanese people. Electoral reforms were finally won and we celebrated the return to democratic life, especially transparent elections, run by a respected Elections Commission.
Our Union is of the firm view that GECOM has a primary role to play in upholding and promoting a democratic culture. We see the Chairman playing an important role in ensuring that GECOM lives up to the expectation of holding free, fair and transparent elections in our country. Consequently, we see any delay in the appointment of the Commission’s Chairman as one which can, in all likelihood, affect the several tasks which the Commission must be engaged in to the prepare for future elections.
In recent days, various interpretations have been proffered concerning the process of appointing Elections Commission Chairman. That process, it is well known, was influenced by former US President Jimmy Carter in the lead up to the 1992 elections and received the support of both the then Opposition and the Government. President Carter, a respected statesman, could be approached, if needs be, for clarification of the formula which may put an end to the different interpretations. Moreover, we are not oblivious of the view, that Mr Carter’s formula was meticulously followed by the then President, Desmond Hoyte, an astute legal mind, who chose from the nominees proposed by the then Opposition Leader, Dr Cheddi Jagan. Also, during his sojourn as Opposition Leader, Mr Hoyte’s nominees for the post would have taken into account the intent and spirit of the Carter formula, from which a Chairman was chosen.
To go the way of litigation, which is a possibility, can very well prolong the delay. Such a concern is not unfounded as we see the Elections Petition filed by the Opposition – People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – still not being adjudicated despite promises that it would receive ready and speedy attention. Faced with such a scenario we could very well see Local Government Elections due in 2019 and National and Regional Elections due in 2020 facing hurdles. Such a situation, we hold, will not be in the interest of our democracy or our people and our country.
GAWU recalls that the Guyanese working people, among others, played a pivotal role in the restoration of democracy in our society. It is important that we seek to avoid engagement in anything that can reverse our democratic gains or which can cast a shadow on our constitutionally required elections which must be conducted in a free and fair manner. We urge strongly, at this time, that our nation’s leaders seek to resolve this important issue in an amicable and just manner that would ensure our cherished democratic norms and institutions are upheld.