• 06 Oct, 2022

Unjustified Threats against Guyana Election Chair

Unjustified Threats against Guyana Election Chair

Unjustified Threats against Guyana Election Chair

Guyana’s Opposition Leader and other opposition figures consistently uttered threatening remarks against Election Commission Chair Madame Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh. They have not made it a secret they want her out of the commission. But why? The attacks are unjustified as she has not taken sides. The chair was the agreed pick of former PNC leader David Granger and then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo just over three years ago.    
    
The threats themselves are inappropriate and don’t belong in a democratic, civilized society. One cannot attack or threaten a head or member of a statutory or constitutional body. She is not a politician. She dies not take sides. Anyone who studies political science as I did or have a basic understanding of law would know such threats don’t belong in a democratic society or made by another head of a constitutional body.
 
Threats themselves don’t remove a person from office. The threats against the chair are hollow and they will not ensure that she leaves. Justice Singh is a strong person. I don’t think she would simply walk away from her office on mere threats (physical or oral). What benefits would accrue to the opposition and or its leader by threatening a statutory office holder? The threats brought back memory of Basdeo Panday's attack on then President Robinson in Trinidad, a decision Bas must have regretted. In the tied election of December 2001, when Panday should have remained as PM as incumbent, Robinson by-passed him and appointed challenger Patrick Manning as PM who won less votes (though equal number of seats) than Panday. That was the end of Panday's career as PM.   
 
Threats themselves are legal infractions (violate the law). It is up to the legal authority to address that matter. In democratic countries, as in the US, India, Canada, there would be consequences threatening a constitutional or any person. Politicians would be sanctioned but not in Guyana.
 
Politicians must know that there is a well laid down process of removing Gecom chair or commissioners (unless they resign on their own accord). Theirs is a constitutional position – the procedure for removal are charges and establishment of an independent tribunal that will launch an inquiry and give recommendations to the President.
 

President-Ali-not-Summoned-to-Washington-Dr-Vishnu-Bisram
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram

 
The chair has been accused of being partial towards PPP. But there is no evidence that she violated rules in favor of one party or the other. All parties, except APNU and AFC supported her.  She merely has followed the laws.
She can’t be accused of turning a blind eye on complaints of fraud in the March 2020 elections.  Rigging or fraud was thoroughly addressed by the courts, including CCJ, and independent observers. The election results were scrutinized at multiple levels right up to the CCJ. All violations were addressed. The Chair and Gecom followed the law.
 
The Government in July established an international commission of repute to look into the 2020 elections -- cheating, rigging, performance of Gecom actors, etc. Terms of reference of the commission are not finalized. The commission will come up with a report. It will address the issues being ventilated now and before.
Conversations I had with legal experts suggest that Madame Claudette Singh has been scrupulously pursuing constitutional framework. She has not violated laws or rules. She has been deliberate in her thinking and decision making. Any constitutional infractions under her watch are not tenable. She will not condone or support wrong doing. No one can force her to go beyond constitutional or legal process. Justice Claudette Singh is a disciplined person. She has been a judge and is legal and constitutionally minded. She follows the law. Attempts to bully the Chair are being thwarted by the alacrity of the chair herself. She has been running commission for three years. She has not yielded to anything illegal. She will not be cowered by veil threats.  She is sticking to constitutional legal provisions.
 
For preparations for the overdue Local government elections, she recently emphasized that the list is being sanitized and people will be free to include their names on it (if missing). She also made it clear that she cannot remove any name unless the person is deceased and evidence provided accordingly by the register office (of deaths and births).  It should be noted that people travel for employment, education, vacation, and other purposes. One can’t willy nilly remove names from the list. Those who are deceased can be removed.
 
One must also note that the Chair is not Gecom. She is merely one of seven members. Decisions are taken as a body. Whatever decision is taken is that of the entire body and not just the members who support it. She is not responsible alone.  The full body is responsible.  Why pick on her?
 
Justice Singh is not of unsound mind and is not corrupt. She deserves all support to do her work without fear and favor and to implement all constitutional legal provisions. She has made it clear in statements that she would follow the constitution and laws pertaining to elections, voting process, and voters. Absence of legal constitutional infractions by the Chair, the threats against the chair are baseless and must be discontinued.

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr. Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a holder of multiple degrees in the natural sciences, social sciences, and education. He taught for over forty years in the US. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling globally to research and write about Indian communities.