Civil society groups representing the Afro-Guyanese community have condemned the announced electoral reform project to be spearheaded by the Inter-national Republican Institute (IRI).
According to the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) and the Society for African Guyanese Empowerment (SAGE), the project was conceived without consultation with the Afro-Guyanese community or their representatives and therefore should be discontinued in favour of a project developed via consensus.
“ACDA views the exclusion of African Organisations, other stakeholders, and the Parliamentary Opposition from the initial process as an attempt to undermine the fundamental interest of the African Community and other groups,” a statement from the association on Friday said.
While ACDA called on African Guyanese to be vigilant and not to be co-opted in a process designed to undermine their fundamental interest.
SAGE on Saturday declared that it could not endorse a scheme developed without prior consultation with the African-Guyanese elected leadership.
Asked to define “African Guyanese elected leadership,” Chairman of SAGE Dr David Hinds told Sunday Stabroek that it was the “APNU+AFC Coalition.”
According to Hinds, African Guyanese “overwhelmingly voted for APNU+AFC and therefore they represent African Guyanese interests in the National Assembly.”
The SAGE statement maintained that as a plural society Guyana must be driven by consensus, with government at minimum consulting with the political opposition.
SAGE objected to IRI conducting any project related to Guyana’s electoral system as the “outfit [has a] dubious record in countries such as Haiti and Venezuela.”
IRI has previously been accused of playing a part in the 2004 Haitian coup by advising the opposition to stand firm and not work with then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as a way to cripple his government and drive him from power. Similar accusations have been levelled against the group in Venezuela.
In a statement, GRHA noted that the IRI’s board members are a veritable who’s who of the Republican establishment, including party grandees such as Senators Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and Dan Anderson. With the exception of Romney, it said, none of the other IRI stalwarts have publicly distanced themselves from the DonaldTrump-led mayhem following the November US election results, nor from the persecution of Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney for doing so, nor from the ongoing Republican campaign to disenfranchise voters in traditionally democratic States.
“Guyanese have nothing to learn from an institution whose parent body is a leading influence in global fascism,” GHRA stressed.
The 18-month project is part of ongoing US government support to strengthen the capacity of Guyana’s governance.
It was announced on May 4 by the US Embassy here that the US Department of State is supporting the strengthening of the capacity of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Attorney General’s Chambers regarding electoral processes, as well as encouraging civil society organisations (CSO) to advocate for electoral reform in accordance with regional and international standards.
“Through this project, GECOM, the Attorney General’s Chambers, and Guyanese CSOs will collaboratively consolidate and improve local electoral and constitutional law knowledge, establish an internal timeline to address electoral reform, improve collaboration for joint advocacy actions, and prioritize electoral and constitutional law issues while promoting reform through citizen engagement,” it explained.