GECOM SITS AND WAITS – LIKE THE OLD GUMBIE CAT


The headline is not an original formulation. It is partially borrowed from the late Miles Fitzpatrick, then a columnist in the Stabroek News. He was writing just before the reforms of the early 1990s about the Elections Commission and its Chair, Sir Harold Bollers, a former Chief Justice of Guyana, in an article entitled “The Gumbie Cat.” The struggle for free and fair elections had moved beyond the confines of the PPP and its supporters, to the WPA and its supporters and then to wider civil society. A student of both poetry and Marx, among other subjects, our tragic elections history, now repeating itself sadly as farce, again depicted by the Gumbie Cat, would not have escaped Fitzpatrick, a dominant and engagingly popular force in civil society’s contribution to a democratic Guyana.

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ULITA MOORE AND THE RECOUNT OF VOTES


Just as the Elections Commission (“the Commission”) was getting its act together, gingerly tiptoeing its way to a decision to recount the votes cast in the general and regional elections held on March 2, Ulita Moore, a candidate for the APNU+AFC in the regional elections, caused to be filed a case in court seeking a variety of declarations and orders against the Commission. The most important order sought is that the recounting of the votes is unconstitutional. The basis of the contention is that the Commission cannot do so on the terms contained in an Aide Memoire signed by the President and Opposition Leader. The court granted an interim injunction that had the effect of putting the recount on hold until the hearing and determination of the case.

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ALL OVER AGAIN


When I first encountered the issue of rigging of elections in Guyana, I was a student activist. Along with a team, I investigated the electoral roll in the UK and found that it was totally and massively fabricated. I led a delegation to Sir John Carter, the Guyana High Commissioner to the UK, and protested the manufactured list and other emerging electoral misdeeds. I had an interview with the London Times newspaper which wrote a long article on the planned rigging of the elections. I engaged with the Panorama television team providing information for the film “The Trail of the Vanishing Voter,” which exposed the depth of the fraudulent electoral list, showing horses in a field, where voters were listed as living. Along with others, I lobbied the House of Commons to get a question asked. I engaged in demonstrations, protest actions and outreach activities. That was in 1968, 52 years ago, and I was a student in London. We’ve come full circle, experiencing déjà vu, witnessing the open and blatant rigging of elections all over again.

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PHANTOM VOTES


Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act is quite clear. It requires the Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, in the presence of persons entitled to be present, to “ascertain the total votes cast in favour of each list in the district by adding up the votes recorded in favour of the list in accordance with the Statements of Poll, and thereupon publicly declare the votes recorded for each list of candidates.” This procedure to “ascertain the total votes cast” for Region 4 “in accordance with the Statements of Poll” was not followed but the Returning Officer declared phantom votes anyway, which showed the APNU+AFC winning the elections by about 7,000 of the said phantom votes. Statements of Poll for Region 4, signed by Presiding Officers, released by the Leader of the Opposition are claimed to show that the PPP won the elections by some 17,000 votes.

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FREE, FAIR AND PEACEFUL ELECTIONS


Some foreign observers are unaware of Guyana’s electoral history. One wonders whether such observers are qualified to observe Guyana’s elections. They would not know, for example, that by itself, this history creates a perpetual tension at election time because of general fears of a repeat of election rigging. They would not know also that this is why after twenty-eight years since 1992, Guyana’s first free and fair elections after a generation, Guyana still requires election observers. The suspicion created by this history has resulted in allegations by the PNC and PNCR that the elections of 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2006, which they lost, were rigged against them. And not to be outdone, the PPP claimed that the elections of 2015, which it lost to APNU+AFC by some 5,000 votes, were rigged against it. These elections were all found to be free and fair by foreign observers.

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