WPA urges collective action to prevent ‘tampering’ with GECOM

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday called government’s advertising directive to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) an indicator of “tampering” in the electoral process and it called for collective political and civic action to prevent interference.

“…If ever there was the need by the opposition political parties and other civil society organizations in Guyana for collective action to protect the fundamental rights of citizens against the excesses of the [Bharrat] Jagdeo government that need is manifested in the latest directive issued to GECOM by the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon,” the WPA said in a statement.

Dr. Luncheon, on September 16, 2010 instructed GECOM to ensure that all advertisements relative to the holding of the 2011 General and Regional Elections, with the exception of those pertaining to discharging GECOM’s constitutional and legal responsibilities, must be carried only on the government’s e-procure website.

However, GECOM is currently conducting a continuous registration exercise which is a precursor to the next general elections, constitutionally due late next year. The poll preparations will involve significant public awareness and education work across the country and GECOM Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally has said civic and voter education activities cannot be done solely using the website.

According to the WPA, the government’s “threat to GECOM is very clear” and it “should not and must not be ignored by persons and organisations that value freedom and have over time, struggled to enshrine democratic principles in the lives of Guyanese.”

It noted its work in the forefront of the fight for the holding of free and fair elections in Guyana, which it said includes the rights of citizens to be aware of every aspect of the process that impacts on the holding of the elections. In this regard, it said it could not ignore the implications of the directive for the elections that are due to be held in 2011 and for the future of the electoral process and the lives and livelihood of all Guyanese, once the PPP remains in office.

Dr. Luncheon has said his directive has been deliberately misconstrued and called the situation a non-issue. However, the WPA maintained that his directive was an indicator of tampering and dubbed it “sinister.” It also said it was well known that very few Guyanese have access to computers and, as a result, information posted on the e-procure website will be known only to a select few and will remain unknown to the larger body of citizens.

It added that government’s decision to limit advertisements to its website demonstrates that there will be developments around the 2011 elections which it will not wish to have exposed to Guyanese, “including attempts to push back the elections well beyond the due date thereby providing President [Bharrat] Jagdeo with his much sought after extended stay in office.”

In this vein, the WPA urged “all patriotic Guyanese, opposition political parties and civil society organizations and individuals to join forces to ensure that GECOM carries out its mandate to the people without interference from the government.” It noted that it was not calling for alliance building to contest the 2011 elections but rather an urgent unified approach against the government on issues of fundamental importance to all Guyanese. It also urged GECOM to resist this attempt by government to further compromise its independence. “The future of free and fair elections in Guyana to a large extent rests in GECOM’s hands,” it said.

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