kaieteur news Oct 23, 2017
President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of former Justice, James Patterson, as the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was not unconstitutional.
It does however; reflect how “poisoned” our political environment is, says Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds.
Dr. Hinds said too that the decision by the President also represents another colossal failure on the part of the nation’s political leaders.
He commented that if the President and the Opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo could not find consensus on this matter, then Guyana’s political future as a joint nation is bleak.
He opined that one should wake up to the reality that Guyana’s leaders on both sides do not have what it takes to manage a difficult multi-ethnic society. That, Dr. Hinds said, is the sad reality facing all Guyanese.
Further, Dr. Hinds stated that while President Granger made the final decision, Jagdeo is equally responsible for the outcome.
“Let me explain. We have seen in the past that the role of the GECOM chair is pivotal in an institution where the two political sides have equal representation and they vote along party lines. The vote of the chair could indirectly affect the outcome of an election.”
“During the PPP tenure, that party chose three Indian Guyanese to fill that position. All three are and were hounarable men, but in our ethnically divided society their ethnicity is highlighted. In our ethnically heightened situation, that matters whether we choose to say it aloud or not. Many observers are convinced that Dr. Jagan and Mr. Jagdeo were very deliberate when they made their choices.”
Dr. Hinds said it is reasonable then to expect that this new government would want to go in the other direction—that is, to choose someone of another ethnic group in whom they have confidence.
“I think that was the unspoken position of the majority faction of the Coalition. But they did not have the courage to say so publicly because of the fear of being charged with ‘racializing’ the issue. So, the plan was simple; use a narrow reading of the constitution to achieve a political objective. That approach is standard political behavior.”
The WPA Executive Member is of the view that the PPP and Jagdeo knew of this sentiment and set out to frustrate it. He believes that they were careful in all three of the lists Jagdeo provided so as to not give Granger an “independent” African Guyanese acceptable to him.
“This, in my view, was very insensitive on the PPP’s part—they showed absolutely no respect for ethnic balance and for the symbolism of ethnic give-and-take. Having said that, it is my view that the President should have avoided making a unilateral decision.”
Dr. Hinds commented that in doing so, Granger gave a weapon to the PPP and other independent interests which are skeptical about the Coalition’s commitment to democratic governance. He said that the President has not acted unconstitutionally as the PPP is bellowing. He emphasized that the constitution is clear about that.
But while the decision is constitutionally sound, Dr. Hinds said that it is politically senseless.
“I don’t think we had reached the point of last resort. There was still room for compromise on the matter. The president should have continued to negotiate with Jagdeo and let the process push him to unilateral action, if he Jagdeo continued to play hardball.”
The WPA Executive Member said the fact is that the People’s National Congress has more of the authoritarian tag than the PPP. As such, he said that the Coalition should always resist doing things that smell of authoritarian intent.
Dr. Hinds commented that the PPP, as it has indicated, will milk this development for all its worth. He said that the Opposition now has a symbolic reason to make the country ungovernable.
He believes that this decision will not cost the Coalition votes, but it would damage their image, which is already suffering.
Dr. Hinds concluded that the PPP’s position would find common ground with sections of the society which are partial to the Coalition but suspicious of its democratic commitment.