The brouhaha reported in the press concerning the most recent selection of a Deputy Chief Election Officer, albeit on the allegation of racial bias, goes deeper than current exchanges.
Reference needs to be made to Article 161 of the Constitution which reads as follows:
“161. (1) There shall be an Elections Commission for Guyana consisting of a Chairman, who shall be a full-time Chairman and shall not engage in any form of employment, and such other members as may be appointed in accordance with the provisions of this article.
(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the elections commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly:
Provided that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, the President shall appoint a person who holds or has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge.
(3) In addition to the Chairman, there shall be six members of the Commission who shall be appointed in the following manner –
(a) three members to be appointed by the President, acting in his own deliberate judgement; and
(b) three members to be appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition tendered after meaningful consultation with non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.”
The above requirements having been satisfied, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the reality of any selection contradicts the preceding article 160 A (1), which reads as follows:
“160A. (1) All persons, institutions and political parties are prohibited from taking any action or advancing, disseminating or communicating any idea which may result in racial or ethnic division among the people.”
The point being made is that our governance structures and too many related procedures have been embedded in ‘racial bias’ as is being highlighted in the GECOM imbroglio.
Indeed previous experience in a consultancy which aimed at the restructuring of GECOM around 2004, recognised the inevitability of the impulsive investment in promoting respective party interests.
At the time experience also indicated the consequential behaviours of various members of staff in response to the decision-making balance amongst Commissioners and between parties.
The now disaffected candidate would have been no exception in this regard, that is from the perspective of the external analysis at the time.
In such a (weighted) environment therefore, it is not easy for either side to claim any substantive degree of objectivity; unless it could be proved that the recruitment process faithfully observed the procedures enunciated, albeit in that distant consultancy report, to which, not unexpectedly too few, including newcomers, would have referred.
So that in addition to the patent institutional imbalance, what probably obtains is a chronic derogation of the relevant institutional systems and procedures (which would have become palpably negotiable).
In the final analysis there appears to be little scope for either party to claim any moral high ground.