Gecom is treating civil society interest in elections as an unwelcome development

Dear Editor,

The letter of Mr Vishnu Persaud, PRO of Gecom, in SN August 17 putting Facing the Future (FtF) organizations in their place over their pamphlet, aimed at educating the public about local government elections, is surprisingly defensive. Copies of FtF’s three leaflets – Re-discovering Citizenship, Problem Solving in Communities and Local Government Elections ‒ were sent to all parliamentarians and Gecom some two months ago.

The sanctimonious claim that Gecom “cannot allow the incorrect information be fed to the public” contained in “very ambiguous statements” in the FtF leaflet, that could lead to “confusion,” are not remotely substantiated by the two trivial examples provided.  Indeed if these are all the errors to be found, the pamphlet’s accuracy is of a very high standard. However, since Gecom is something of an authority on confusing statements, FtF would be happy to receive the evidence which provoked its anxiety.

In case members of the public may be wondering why Gecom itself has not been educating the public about this Act passed in 2009, the letter assures them “…a civic and voter education programme… pertaining to the new system for local government elections…” will soon be launched.  Presumably it has taken so long “because, the Commission is currently involved with educating our own permanent staff about the new local government elections system.”  For four years?

The letter anticipates this thought with the assurance that “This activity, as part of a deliberate strategy (especially where timing is concerned), has been held back because of important, far-reaching and consequential uncertainties associated with the conduct of local government elections.” One can only wonder what those in Gecom pre-occupied with the public’s right-to-accurate-information make of this masterly example of ambiguity.

It may be nearer the truth that Gecom had completely ignored the Act until the civil society pamphlets started to circulate and is currently hustling to recover lost ground. The letter deteriorates into panic-stricken condescension, suggesting that Gecom alone is specifically mandated by law to provide information and that everyone requiring it, particularly “the listed organisations and other organisations” should contact Gecom “before getting involved in the publication of information the like of which is carried in the pamphlet referred to above.”

Rather than use the pamphlet as an opportunity to engage constructively with FtF member organizations, Gecom, regrettably, is treating civil society interest in elections as an unwelcome, even threatening development. Seen in this light, the letter suggests a fearful, insecure institution, unwilling to risk offending the good graces of higher powers ‒ far from the confident, vigorous agency with vision and vitality that the country sorely needs in respect of elections.

Yours faithfully,
Mike McCormack
Convenor for
Facing the Future (FtF)

Sponsoring Organizations:  Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), Church Women United (CWU), Commonground, Community-Based Rehabilitation-EBD, Guyana Council of Churches (GCC), Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), Guyana Society for the Blind, Guyana Workers Union (GWU), Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Rights of Children (ROC), Red Thread, Vilvoorden Women’s Organization
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