‘HE WHO ASSERTS MUST PROVE’


While the political atmosphere is still heavily laden with gloom, it was somewhat lifted by President Granger statement that the Government will accept ‘any declaration’ made by GECOM pursuant to the recount. This was followed by a statement by the Chair of GECOM that ‘he who asserts must prove.’ President Granger’s statement contrast sharply with those by Government/APNU+AFC officials doubting GECOM legal capacity to issue a declaration on the recount. A suggestion by a member that GECOM that must investigate the allegations that dead and migrated persons have voted in the elections cannot be taken seriously. But the statements have only partially mitigated the concerns.

Observers have speculated that the use of the words ‘any declaration’ by President Granger suggests that he might be leaving open the possibility that GECOM could potentially issue a declaration based on the original count incorporating the Mingo declaration, as opposed to the recount now in progress. Anything is possible. But this would be beyond the realm of rational consideration. If APNU+AFC is arguing that the recount proves that the elections were irretrievably fraudulent because of the dead and migrated voters and that a declaration cannot be made, then the same argument has to apply in relation to the count. It would mean that no declaration can be made at all.

This would be a constitutional dead end as I explained in my article last week. Elections having been held, the next step is for a declaration of results, the swearing in of the President, the naming of MPs, the appointment of the Prime Minister and Ministers and the convening of Parliament. There is no route backwards to constitutionality after elections have been held but before results are declared. After elections have been held, there is no power to recall Parliament, so that there is no possibility of establishing a lawful government.

The Chair of GECOM has issued a timely reminder of a basic legal principle. But a court or tribunal (GECOM would be classified as a tribunal) must have jurisdiction before it can entertain a matter for it to reach the stage of proof. In two articles over the past three weeks I have asserted that GECOM does not have jurisdiction to entertain the objections by APNU+AFC that dead and migrated persons have voted in the elections. Both a count and recount of the ballots under the Representation of the People Act and the Order do not provide for such objections. GECOM should not have been entertaining such objections in the first place and ought to have advised the objectors to save their objections for an election petition. My articles over the past three weeks have discussed these issues extensively.

Of importance also is the acknowledgment by President Granger of the need for ‘inclusionary governance’ in Guyana. A vague statement when his Government is under pressure will not convince anyone of the President’s conversion to ‘inclusionary governance.’ He had the opportunity in 2015 of fulfilling his coalition’s manifesto promise of constitutional reform leading to executive power sharing. He ditched the promise. Now that pressure has mounted for the reform of our constitution to improve our governance system, the President makes a vague promise that has no meaning.

The political stalemate that has engulfed Guyana since March 4 has given rise to a wave of support from new and important voices for a new form of governance that includes executive power sharing and electoral reform. President Granger’s statement, referred to above, is an acknowledgment of this growing sentiment. But it does not go far enough. It’s a politician’s statement, meant only to quell the noise.

A New and United Guyana (ANUG), a new political party which contested the elections, had constitutional reform leading to shared governance and electoral reform as its flagship issues. It did not make a significant impact on the electorate. But the nature of our electorate, motivated essentially by ethno-political issues, are not expected to be swayed by sentiments of power sharing. ANUG was hoping that the political elites and civil society might have been influenced, as some now are, belatedly. It is hoped that the political stalemate will convince more persons to speak out for a political solution.

The PPP/C, like APNU+AFC, has not supported executive shared governance. If it takes office and governs as before, it will have to contend with resumed, large scale, rebellion by African Guyanese, taking as yet unknown forms. Post-election violence in 1992 and 1997 followed by a near three-month public service strike together brought down a President. 2001 post- election violence was followed by two sets of criminal-terrorist rebellions with anti-Indian killings. A village was seized. The African-dominated security sector displayed marked reluctance in engaging the criminals. In a protest in Linden on economic issues three African Guyanese were killed. Accusations of African marginalization by the PPP is part of APNU+AFC’s narrative and widely accepted. That there will be one or a series of African rebellions against a PPP government is not in doubt. When and what forms it will take will emerge with time. But the PPP may figure that it survived the worst before and has the capacity to survive it again. We shall see.

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