I have to write begging on behalf of myself and other Amerindians for clarification of the report in Kaieteur News of June 21 headlined ‘Toshaos elections set for July.’ Either the reporter was as confused as we are by numerous contradictions and puzzling statements in the post-cabinet press briefing, or he has seriously misrepresented the Minister of State and our own Sydney Allicock. Incidentally, do we have to congratulate the latter on his elevation to Vice-President, or was the hyphen deliberately omitted?
Though the report did not say so, we are sure Mr Harmon mentioned “that an audit will be done prior to the planned elections,” not just to satisfy residents about the way that monies used were spent, but to satisfy the Amerindian Act 2006 which stipulates that the Minister shall arrange a general audit, financial and documentary, not less than three months before the date of Village Council elections. Maybe because July 22 is only one month away the reporter thought Mr Harmon was saying that the upcoming elections could be on a separate date for Toshaos only, as provided in the Act.
However the other sections of the Act providing for elections make no distinction between those for a Toshao and those for councillors. Therefore Mr Harmon was correct in quoting the law, relevant to the Toshaos’ elections he was announcing, that the Returning Officer (“the clerk of the Regional Democratic Council” or his appointee, since the report did not identify that officer) shall give each Village Council “a written notice of election not later than 35 days before Election Day, which shall confirm the day on which the election will be held.” Kaieteur News did not report Mr Harmon or Mr Allicock’s official declaration that such notice was given to all Village Councils more than 35 days before July 22. Nor did it report a necessary ministerial declaration that all Village Councils immediately call Village General Meetings according to the law that Mr Harmon quoted.
Such is our confidence in the coalition that we assume its Minister of State, in further quoting the law requiring the Village Council to compile and display at least 60 days before the election date an electoral list of all adult residents, must have stated officially at the press briefing that this had been done in all Amerindian villages. If that were not done and all complaints duly dealt with, the July elections would be null and void, and we are sure our new government would not expose itself to legal action against the swearing-in of Toshaos the morning after. Nor would the coalition government risk any snide comments about the rule of law they promised. So those vital parts of the Minister of State’s briefing must have been omitted from the report.
We feel it is important that equal publicity be given to an early correction and full verification of compliance with the Act.