The elections impasse and COVID-19 – Stabroek News, Guyana

It should now be clear to all except the most blinkered and those who refuse to see that there can be no swearing in of a new President on the basis of the twice-doctored results for District Four from the March 2nd general elections. Any attempt at such a swearing-in will undermine the stability of the nation and the state and must not be countenanced. Mr Granger, performing the functions of the caretaker President, and his coterie of advisors must take heed of this.

Four weeks on, this crisis over the winner of the general election has mushroomed because of the failure of GECOM and more precisely its Chair, Justice (retired) Claudette Singh to take steps to ensure a valid declaration of results for all regions and in particular for Region Four. There was/is clearly a conspiracy at GECOM to hand the election to the incumbent APNU+AFC without an accurate count of the largest voting district – Demerara/Mahaica. The roles of the Returning Officer for District Four, Mr Clairmont Mingo and the Chief Election Officer Mr Keith Lowenfield in this tawdry drama must be rigorously examined and the requisite action taken against them and any others found culpable.

As much as she has failed to take control of the situation – particularly on the two days when Mr Mingo made astonishing declarations of “results” for Region Four – Justice Singh can now redeem the situation. The affidavit tendered on her behalf before Justice Holder’s court in the case seeking to thwart a recount of Region Four sets out the seminal authority of GECOM – as enshrined by the Constitution of Guyana – to take whatever action is necessary to ensure fairness of the election result.

Article 162 (1) (b) supplies this authority. It states that the elections commission “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”.

Justice Singh must now act with dispatch on those powers and begin preparations for a swift recount of District Four and any other district for which there is good reason to undertake so that the will of the people is upheld and the riggers repulsed. As we said in yesterday’s leader, the only option available is a recount. Hopefully, CARICOM will remain engaged and available for this purpose.

With the clear and present threat posed to the people by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the current deep political divide not undermine the co-ordinated and intense battle needed to defend the nation from this crippling and deadly virus.

The national task force that has been established by the caretaker APNU+AFC administration must be immediately expanded to include representation from the opposition, the private sector and other members of civil society. All hands must be on deck and this will also help to ensure continuity in policy when the elections stalemate is over. Thus far Guyana’s response to this virus has not been impressive. Testing for the virus, a pivotal tool in containment, has been minimal and there have been questionable and poorly handled decisions such as the permitting of a charter flight from Barbados during the continuing closure of the two international airports. The benefits from the lockdown of the two airports will be adulterated by such poor decisions and inadequate attention to land borders and internal travel. There are also piercing questions about contact tracing, quarantine facilities and the efforts that are being made to mobilise test kits, ventilators and protective gear for doctors, nurses and other health workers.

Wide-scale testing would have given a clearer indication of which sections of the city or Region Four or other parts of the country should be placed on lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus. Region 10 has commendably taken its own action – a sign of the lack of decisiveness by central government – but these efforts will be undermined by the irresolute approach in other parts of the country. There is no time to be lost in mobilising against this fight.

Stabroek News


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