Carter Center has long recommended discontinuance of current GECOM model

Dear Editor,

There is no denying that the weekly presentation “Future Notes” in Stabroek News makes interesting reading which even stimulates useful argumentation at times.

It turns out that in Stabroek News’s issue of June 27, 2018, it dilates on the partisan structure of the Guyana Elections Commission where recently the selection to the position of Deputy Chief Election Officer stimulated much debate, some albeit overheated.

In its commentary the article submits the following: “The formula (Carter formula) allows the establishment of a commission that is usually dominated by high party members and officials chosen by the parties themselves. Parties are what they are, namely partisan, and the governments they form are likewise expected to implement their partisan policies.”

But then in support the argumentation continues: “The Carter formula is simply the localised application of the institution that has been in existence for centuries (?)….The proposers were trying to establish legitimacy by balancing the interests of the contending parties in a fashion that would provide an institution and outcomes acceptable to all.”

It is at this juncture that one must part company with the author’s perspective, even though it would coincide with those of many observers, all of whom would not have paid attention to the Carter Center’s review of its own formula contained in its Observer Mission’s Report of 2006.

Hopefully Stabroek News would forgive this reference to my letter to the Editor of March 2017, in which the following observation was made:

“But there could be no forgiving the Commissioners’ delinquency regarding what should have been a historic ‘Observation’ by the very Carter Center Mission to the effect that the extant governance structure had become sterile and counter-productive, and should be aborted. That since 2006 such a recommendation was neither comprehensively debated, or conclusive decision made at the highest level of the sponsoring Parties, was clear evidence of dereliction of duty by the then Commissioners. How could they not recognise their greater responsibility to the Citizenship as a whole, and who would also have a constitutional right to be a part of that critical decision-making process?

The Carter Center Mission, in recommending the discontinuance of the current political management framework, made reference to models in the Commonwealth which function more effectively, and consequently enjoy much more credibility.

They recommended a new structure to be managed by recognizably qualified professionals, as obtains in Barbados, Jamaica, Canada and elsewhere; and for a specific term of office.

Following are extracts from ‘Recommenda-tions/Issues to be addressed’.

2. Reforming GECOM

GECOM should be independent from the government and be accountable to and receive funding from the National Assembly. The independence of GECOM from the government’s administration will bolster the Commission’s credibility and independence.

The Carter-Price formula for GECOM should be changed to ensure that GECOM is not divided solely along political lines:

GECOM should be composed of individuals who are solely committed to carrying out a successful and transparent elections process, and who have the confidence of political parties, but who can also maintain independence. As noted in the Carter Center’s report on the 2001 elections, `as part of the electoral reform efforts, Guyana should give careful consideration to alternative models, possibly reducing  or eliminating political party representation and increasing the role of independent members of civil society and professional experts.’

This is the challenge the electorate (not only government and opposition) now faces. It is time for corrective action – certainly after TEN YEARS.”

Is it then that we are all so embedded in the psyche of division, divisiveness, partisanship, that in 2018 it is too late for the recommended change to be addressed?

Yours faithfully,

E. B. John

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