On the last day of 2020, former President David Granger in his capacity as Leader of the PNCR provided a lengthy account of his government’s stewardship between 2015 and 2020. Much of it was unremarkable, constituting the standard burnishing of his administration’s achievements while blasting the current holders of office. What was however remarkable was Mr Granger’s arduous efforts to sanitise the meretricious efforts to rig the March 2nd 2020 elections in his and his coalition’s favour.
Among the more egregious statements was the following: “The delay in holding elections after the passage of a ‘no-confidence motion’ on 21st December 2018 against the Coalition in the National Assembly was due to the Elections Commission’s unpreparedness”.
Several chapters were omitted by Mr Granger, primarily his coalition’s about-turn on the outcome of the December 21, 2018 motion of no confidence. Not only did the APNU+AFC coalition unsuccessfully challenge the straightforward vote in Parliament by writing to the Speaker, it then mounted futile proceedings that wended their way to the apex court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Moreover, while the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) should have been prepared to convene general elections in three months in keeping with the requirements of a successful motion of no confidence, its secretariat, in an early sign of its intent to defy the will of the people to the profit of APNU+AFC, said in September 2019 that it would not be ready to hold elections until the end of February 2020. This advice by the GECOM Secretariat was inexplicably accepted unquestioningly by Chair of the elections commission, Justice (Rtd) Claudette Singh.
Were it not for APNU+AFC’s bid to stay in office by all means available, general elections would have been held by March 21 2019 or at least three months after the appointment of Justice Singh as GECOM Chair on July 29, 2019.
After giving his version of the events consequent to the March 2nd polls, Mr Granger uttered the following: “The processes between 2nd March and 2nd August may seem to have been protracted but they were necessary to ensure the functioning of the Constitution, `…the preservation of justice and the peace and prosperity of Guyana.’ We believe that the measures we took fortified democracy. The Coalition acted correctly and lawfully throughout the year 2019 to ensure that credible elections could be held in the year 2020 and it will continue its vigorous defence of its election petition in the New Year, 2021”.
Perhaps, Mr Granger has no alternative but to continue with his malign narrative of the events that transpired after the March 2nd general elections as he has blessed the election petitions now before the court challenging the results finally declared by GECOM.
However, it is important that neither Mr Granger nor APNU+AFC or its various constituents be allowed to perversely rewrite the history of March 2nd. The so-called “measures” that the coalition took did not “fortify democracy”. On the contrary, it brought the country to the cusp of being declared an undemocratic state and a pariah as far as the international community was concerned. It was mainly external pressure that forced APNU+AFC to abandon its bid to undemocratically return itself to office.
In years to come, it will become clear that the blatant undermining of the free and fair elections infrastructure had its genesis in the unilateral appointment by former President Granger of Justice (Rtd) James Patterson. This appointment came after Mr Granger had rejected three lists, each with six names, submitted by the Opposition Leader in compliance with a time-tested constitutional formula. Among the names on the lists rejected was that of Major General (Rtd) Joe Singh who had successfully presided over a general and regional elections.
On June 18 of 2019 the CCJ underscored the illegality of the appointment of Justice (Rtd) Patterson necessitating the search for a new candidate and leading to the eventual selection of Justice Singh. At every step of the way leading to the elections of March 2nd, 2020 it was clear that APNU+AFC was seeking maximum delay in a bid to gather more support and it was aided in this campaign by GECOM and its secretariat.
The worst was yet to come. It came in the form of the crude attempt by the District Four Returning Officer, Mr Clairmont Mingo to fix elections results on March 5th by inflating numbers for APNU+AFC while decreasing those for the PPP/C. This crudity evoked consternation and amazement from the Head of the OAS observer mission here, the former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding when he made his interim presentation before the OAS.
Yet, Mr Granger and his coalition were prepared to accept the abomination produced by Mr Mingo as the basis for returning APNU+AFC to office. After the failure of Mr Mingo’s ministrations on behalf APNU+AFC and the painstaking recount of all of the ballots cast, it was the turn of the Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield to continue the perverse campaign to overturn the will of the people. From the discarding of over 100,000 votes to defying on multiple occasions the instruction of the GECOM Chair, Mr Lowenfield tried his utmost to overturn the democratic will of the people. To its eternal shame, the APNU+AFC cheered those efforts on hoping against hope that it would be returned to office despite the constant flow of rebukes and warnings from the international community about its intransigence.
Mr Granger is free to present his version but it doesn’t rhyme with the facts and this is most unfortunate coming from a former freely elected President of this country. The upholding of the will of the people after arduous efforts here and abroad should be a cautionary tale for all of our leaders that deflections from democratic underpinnings, good governance and the rule of law could have unpleasant consequences.