By Rickford Burke
The election impasse between the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) persists without mitigation, except a lull for an imminent Supreme court ruling on the sub judice matter. The impasse arose because opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP fraternity, including some private sector actors, are seeking to impose a counterfeit “birthright” to dominance of Guyana. The actions of this group of “Orwellians” are imperiling the rule of law and democracy.
Their exudation of this contrived supremacy has engendered a specious morality where, for them, the law is malleable and applies to them only on their terms. It is this hegemony of lawlessness which they advance as their concept of “democracy.” In reality, this pathology is the Orwellian Entitlement Syndrome (OES).
Their fantasy superior citizenship fuels their drive to manipulate the law on a presumption that they alone control commerce, industry and capital in the country. Their contempt for authority suggests the thinking that such affluence entitles them to domination and, more so, flagitious conduct. It is no wonder that they attempt to challenge judges who rule against them with impunity. And no wonder they fell they can abuse and threaten police officers who disallow their lawlessness with dismissal, if they return to government.
The masquerader in chief of their apparent junta has committed treasonous acts against the state. He has also threatened to “go after” political opponents and their families presumably with death squads much like the old days. This insidious rhetoric has aroused sagaciousness in Guyanese. It is easy to recognize that the brazen effrontery is given oxygen by pronouncements from international actors who’s irresponsible narrations are talking points provided by PPP lobbyists. Someone recently remarked that when the unrest they are instigating begins, which of the instigators will survive? Do we need further evidence of how provocative and combustible this rhetoric is in a volatile environment?
Foreign observers have pronounced that results from Region 4 are “unverified,” because the Returning Officer (RO) did not entertain objections during the vote ascertainment process. The PPP has weaponized these uninformed statements. They purport that “unverified” results are fraudulent results. However, Chief Justice Roxanne George, in her March 11, 2020 judgment, held that the RO must use numbers he received from presiding officers, and that “verification” is not provided for in law.
No doubt, some of the Observers’ pronouncements emboldened Jagdeo and his comrades. They stormed the Elections Commission with guns and inspired riots. Supporters in Region 5, chopped police officers and assaulted innocent citizens and school children. Victims still await charges and prosecutions of the perpetrators.
The Elections Results:
Declarations by the ten ROs show that the APNU+AFC coalition has won the elections. Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Mr. Keith Lowenfield, has submitted his report to Commission Chairman, Justice Claudette Singh, and the awaits the final declaration of the results. However, the PPP is insisting on a ballot recount in District 4, although GECOM has already denied all recounts on account of nonconformity to the law. Also, the statutory period for recounts has long expired.
A subsequent CARICOM recount initiative, which was widely viewed as illegal, was halted by the Supreme Court, pursuant to a lawsuit. This case resumed today, March 25, 2020, before Justice Franklyn Holder; who has been subjected to abominable, intimidation attempts and bigoted attacks on his family by PPP websites.
The Law and the Courts:
Our courts exist to interpret and enforce the law. The law proscribes challenges to elections results, except by way of an election petition. The Orwellians believe that they are above the law. Hence, they are circumventing an elections petition and are using the recount provision and court injunctions to challenge the election results. They must not be allowed to manipulate the law and the court for political expediency, as if the court is a personal football.
The no confidence motion cases saw PPP lawyers eloquently and vociferously arguing that Charandass Persaud’s election to Parliament can only be challenged through an elections petition. Chief Justice Roxanne George and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) agreed and ruled in their favor. Now, in 2020, they’ve come to the court with a reversed argument.
PPP’s history of subverting democracy and the law:
Laws are constant. They don’t change based on which party is in government or based on a political party’s misfortune. The December 20, 1997 Stabroek news editorial precisely delineated the PPP’s conduct when opposition parties challenged the tabulation of votes in the December 15, 1997 election. Quote: “The Chairman of the Elections Commission, Mr. Doodnauth Singh, yesterday declared the presidential candidate of the People’s Progressive Party, Mrs. Janet Jagan, the duly elected President of Guyana even though the final count of votes was not complete and the votes in quite a number of boxes remained to be counted,” end quote.
In the December 15, 1997 elections, PPP Returning Officers refused to “verify” SOPs and denied all requests for recounts. They merely declared the results and closed the process. When word leaked that the opposition PNCR was seeking an injunction to stop the declaration of the results, the PPP secretly and unlawfully swore Mrs. Janet Jagan in as President, while votes were still being counted. Mrs. Jagan and her bodyguards later assaulted the chief marshal of the Supreme Court who served her with the injunction, which she pitched to the ground. Where was their commitment to democracy and the rule of law then?
The law in 2020 is the same as 1997:
Subsequently they made substantial submissions to the court detailing why the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter except when the PNCR files an elections petition to challenge the elections results. Now they have abandoned this mantra which they intrepidly proclaimed in 1997 and in 2019. Ironically, the PNCR filed an election petition, which was heard by then Supreme Court Justice Claudette Singh – the incumbent Chairman of GECOM.
Justice Singh vitiated the December 15, 1997 elections results and ordered fresh elections.
Guyana is a functioning democracy with an independent and efficient judiciary. The judicial process must be allowed to function without external interference. The process worked in 1997 and in 2019 when the court ruled against the government in the no confidence vote.
Interference in the elections:
Western countries must not be allowed to abrogate the mandate of the courts of Guyana to themselves. Statements like “a transition of government…would be unconstitutional”… without Guyanese courts so ruling, and ..regardless of how the Guyana Supreme Court rules the installation of a new government based on the declared results will be deemed illegitimate..’ must be rejected. Guyana is a sovereign, democratic state. Interference in Guyana’s elections, to tip the scale for a particular party, as well as preemption of its courts, violate international law.
The court is arbiter of elections disputes:
This elections matter is before our courts. Guyana’s history of obeying judgments of the court has enriched our democracy. GECOM, not the government, controls the elections process. The Orwellians hiding behind the skirts of diplomats and calling for sanctions to hurt Guyanese and destabilize the Caribbean, are the same dastardly cowards who perpetrated genocide in Guyana.
Their foreheads are marked from their crimes of extrajudicial killings, gun and drug smuggling and money laundering. But for how long can their lobbyist, Mercury, hoodwink world powers? How long more can the Orewllians play deceptive games in the arena of international politics? We will see!