GECOM meeting with IRI on electoral reform aborted
A meeting among the six Commissioners and Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to discuss the support for Guyana’s highly touted electoral reform process with the International Republic Institute (IRI) was aborted on Tuesday.
It came as the three Opposition nominated Commissioners raised objections with the IRI representatives meeting with GECOM without the Commission first being informed by the government about the project being carried out.
Last week, the United States Embassy in Guyana announced its support for an 18-month project to strengthen the capacity of GECOM and the Attorney General’s Chambers regarding electoral processes.
One day after, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, acknowledged the project after meeting Resident Programme Director of the International Republican Institute (IRI), Dorota Ryzy, and Local Programme Coordinator, Sara Bharrat at his Chambers.
But Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, believes that this is not enough and there should be direct correspondence from the government to GECOM and at the minimum, a Parliamentary decision before proceeding with the project.
He said, “the meeting was aborted for clarity with all stakeholders.”
“We can’t be engaged in an exercise without the government advising GECOM or Parliament to which GECOM reports. We don’t know who gave the go-ahead for such a project by IRI,” Alexander added.
But the government nominated Commissioners feel different on the issue.
Speaking with the News Room by telephone Tuesday evening, Commissioner Sase Gunraj said the objections raised were “misguided.”
“Even as we speak, we do not know the scope, nature or intent of the project to be undertaken by IRI because they have deprived us of the opportunity to actually listen to the presentation by IRI because of their actions,” Gunraj said.
Gunraj explained that GECOM is not an agency that is responsible for changing laws but rather one that executes policy. “… so I don’t understand the position taken by them when clearly we can’t do that. We are a stakeholder and we ought to entertain any agency that is willing to work with us to enhance this process.”
The Commissioner said it is clear that the government has sanctioned the project in keeping with the public statements of the Attorney General. “I don’t understand what their gripe is at this point. It seems to be just obstructionist,” he added.
Gunraj said the GECOM Chair, Justice (retired) Claudette Singed recognised that it was an information sharing opportunity and was willing to entertain IRI. 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.
The IRI has committed to liaising with the Canadian High Commission as well as the Indian High Commission, both of whom have already pledged assistance to Guyana in this endeavour and will coordinate with those offices to avoid duplication and to ensure the best use of the resources are available.