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…Opposition tells IRI reps regarding electoral reform project
In a frank discourse with representatives of the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon expressed concern that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government may attempt to hijack the US sponsored 18-month Electoral Reform Project to fortify itself in Office.
The Opposition Leader together with Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, MP, met with the IRI Resident Programme Director Dorota Ryzy and IRI Programme Officer Sara Bharrat on Tuesday. Members of Parliament, Roysdale Forde, S.C and Amanza Walton-Desir and Executive Director of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton were also present.
The meeting was birthed out of a request from the Officer of the Opposition Leader after news surfaced that IRI was set to roll out the 18-month project to strengthen the capacity of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Through the project, civil society organisations will be encouraged to advocate for electoral reform in accordance with regional and international standards. Though being a major stakeholder in Guyana, Harmon said the Opposition, in particular, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) was not consulted on the initiative.
He told the IRI Resident Programme Director that based on statements emanating from the Attorney General’s Chamber, the PPP/C may attempt to use the project serve its own purpose.
“We believe that the PPP intend [on] using the IRI as an instrument to destroy the democratic processes in Guyana and to fortify themselves in office,” the Opposition said as he referenced to statements made by the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
Further the Harmon asked Ryzy to furnish his Office with the project’s Terms of Reference (ToR).
“We asked the Director what was their concept of an independent GECOM; how will they arrive at a position that was consistent with our political culture and the history of Guyana. This of course, she said, that they had no clear idea on how it will emerge but that they will consult with civil society and Guyanese on the way forward and how they are going to determine what, if any at all, reforms need to be made to the Elections Commission,” Harmon told reporters.
The opposition also sought a working definition of the term “civil society,” and also expressed concern about the composition of the IRI Board of Directors, some of whom are Republican Senators, who, according to Harmon, have been promoting voter suppression in the US. Such actions, he expressed can impact the roll of the project in Guyana.
The IRI representatives also met with GECOM on Tuesday, however, the meeting was aborted prematurely after concerns were raised about the lack of formal notification on the project from the government.