Inside, confidential and off the record
The threat to democracy worsens
The longer the declaration of a result is withheld from the country,
the graver the threat to Guyana's democracy.
As APNU+AFC and its surrogates continue to defy the will of the people by first sponsoring naked electoral fraud and when that failed occupying all tiers of the judiciary with spurious and vacuous legal challenges to the declaration of the result of the March 2nd elections, it is evident that Guyana faces its greatest threat to democratic governance since the massively rigged elections of 1985, courtesy of the then PNC which today again features in treachery of the same order.
At the helm of it all is the caretaker President David Granger who has shamelessly waited for nearly five months to be illegally sworn in as he must have known as early as March 3rd or 4th that his party had lost the elections by a wide margin. Mr Granger has had numerous opportunities to concede the election and is hopefully not too detached from reality to recognise that were he and his henchmen to defy the declaration by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair of the recount result there would be severe repercussions for all involved and Guyana would cease to be a constitutional democracy in the eyes of the local and international communities with all that that entails.
Mr Granger remains incorrigible. He has repeatedly shifted the goalposts and his words clearly no longer stand for anything. On July 14, he stated that the declaration of the GECOM Chair would be accepted if it was made “in keeping with the laws of Guyana”. Naturally, he and his advisers will be the ones to determine whether a declaration by the GECOM Chair is lawful. Mr Granger's attachment of a condition to the acceptance of the declaration of a result is clearly a prelude to more legal action, this time to challenge the swearing in of the presumptive new President, Irfaan Ali.
Mr Granger's behaviour is unscrupulous and injurious to the rule of law. He has now without a hint of remorse overturned his commitment to abide by the result of the recount of votes which the former CARICOM Chair, Prime Minister Mottley had managed to secure agreement for following a visit to Guyana by regional prime ministers. The painstaking, laborious 33-day recount of ballot boxes which upheld the sanctity of the vote on March 2nd has now been demolished. The assiduous labour of the local and international observers, party agents and GECOM staff has now been perverted to create the noxious fiction that there were serious problems on election day.
The longer the declaration of a result is withheld from the country, the graver the threat to democracy. Time is the currency for APNU+AFC's continuing assault against the recount result and democracy and all sectors of society must be acutely aware of this. It is therefore baffling that the Guyana Court of Appeal has given itself five days in the Misenga Jones case to deliver a decision on material that is straightforward and has been litigated ad nauseam.
It is however GECOM – its Chair in particular – upon which the greatest onus falls to bring this macabre assault on democracy to an end. It remains the case that the Chair, Justice (ret'd) Claudette Singh has to be blamed for allowing the orderly tabulation of results to spiral out of control at the point at which District Four votes were being computed on March 4th. Those egregious failings will no doubt be subject to an inquiry at some point. However, in the meanwhile the GECOM Chair must discharge her responsibilities without fear or favour. It must be evident to Ms Singh that there is a clear and present danger to democracy in this country and it is being fuelled by the time given to APNU+AFC to create mischief through repeated baseless approaches to the court. The constitution enjoins GECOM to take expeditious action to discharge its responsibilities. This requirement was never more pressing than today. Article 162 (1b) of the Constitution states that GECOM “shall issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or of any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the matters aforesaid”.
There is nothing in the Constitution pertaining to GECOM which implies that it must be detained from discharging its duties when there are vexatious actions before the court and no extant order against it. It is therefore insupportable that counsel for the chair has assured several courts that GECOM will not act until that particular legal action is spent. That suggests that any baseless legal challenge – as has already been proffered by APNU+AFC and its surrogates – can be used to thwart the statutory obligation that GECOM has to very single voter in this country to declare a certified result following the holding of elections. It is nearly five months now and this is still to be accomplished.
After she was sworn in as the GECOM Chair on July 29th last year, Ms Singh told the media “I am just hoping I will do something for Guyana because there is only one way, in accordance with the law, in accordance with the Constitution and nothing else”. This is exactly what the country expects Ms Singh to do. Once the Court of Appeal has ruled on Thursday and there is no legal restraint against GECOM, Ms Singh must move immediately to have the results of the elections declared in accordance with the recent pronouncements by the CCJ in Ali and Jagdeo v David et al and to have the new President sworn in.
Stabroek News / July 27, 2020