The United Nations Resident Representative here, Mikiko Tanaka, says she is working with Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman James Patterson to provide electoral aid, which had been requested for local government elections.
Tanaka’s statement to Sunday Stabroek came in the wake of concerns that there had been a standoff between Patterson and the UN office over the aid. It also came following a statement last week by GECOM Commissioner Desmond Trotman that the UN office had violated established protocols in relation to the electoral aid.
Tanaka, in an invited comment on the issues raised by Trotman, said “GECOM is an important institution that safeguards democracy in Guyana. The UN is working with the Chairman to provide the support he has requested.”
At GECOM’s October 10th press conference, when asked about an update on the UN’s offer, Patterson admitted that there was some dissatisfaction with the way some things were handled. Though he did not elaborate, he had said, “It is being refiled. There are still talks going on. The commission was not satisfied, quite, about the way in which it was handled. That aspect is being refiled. The process is still on.”
In a letter published in the October 23rd edition of Stabroek News, Trotman said he applauded the actions of the GECOM Chairman “in respect of the contemptuous behaviour of the UNDP’s Resident Representative in Guyana, on the matter of an aspect of aid to improve the functioning of the IT (Information Technology) department of GECOM.”
Asked what he meant by “contemptuous behaviour,” Trotman said, “There are laid down arrangements on how aid should be addressed. The UNDP did not do that.”
The UNDP was supposed to, in collaboration with GECOM, work out the terms of reference of the offer, he said, “but instead the UNDP did the terms of reference on its own, went out to tender and invited applicants and was moving to hire that person without even any reference to the commission.”
When it was brought to GECOM’s attention that the UNDP had gone ahead with the process without engaging the commission, Trotman said, “A number of us on the commission felt that UNDP had abused the process.”
What the UNDP did, he said, was dictated the terms which was unacceptable.
“The violations of the existing protocols on how these matters should be discussed is an indication that the UNDP was contemptuous of both the chairman and the commission,” he said.
Patterson, by not attending a meeting with the UNDP’s official on the aid offer, Trotman said, sought to dignify not himself but the commission and the commissioners.
While some of the commissioners would say they agreed with what the UNDP did, Trotman said, he felt the process was abused and was disrespectful of the GECOM in general.
The current status of talks between the parties was not for him to discuss, he said, but he only raised the matter after it was put in the public domain by the Opposition-nominated commissioners, who instead of showing solidarity with the Chairman on the issue, subjected him to “undeserved criticism.”
The aid offered by the UNDP was in response to a GECOM’s request for UN technical assistance to aid in voter registration and the general elections process in 2019 and 2020.
A United Nations Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) conducted in May had recommended that priority area of assistance should include database management, systems design, software development to improve the integrity of GECOM’s database, including voter registration and a solid results transmission system.
The NAM’s report recommended that the UN should provide a coordination mechanism for members of the international community to ensure coherence and avoid duplication of any potential support to the 2018 Local Government Elections and the 2020 General Elections.