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|Dr. Henry Jeffery, political scientist and former minister in the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, came out swinging against the manner in which President Irfaan Ali established the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the 2020 General and Regional Elections. Jeffery, along with Mr. GHK Lall, who recently appeared on Dr. David Hinds’ Politics 101 Programme condemned the government’s decision and approach in setting up the body.
Jeffrey said the COI is a disaster and political. He chided the government for not following best practices by collaborating with stakeholders in arriving at its establishment and Terms of Reference (TOR) and said the body will not be seen as credible. Further, “identifying persons to serve on the panel who do not understand our political system” is another problem.
People should therefore not participate because it is a charade, said Jeffrey. Making the case, he announced that in normal circumstances the government should have sat with other stakeholders in the society in working out modalities given the election had the participation of the citizenry. With these not being done, any participation by the people would be equivalent to giving legitimacy to a flawed process, he said.
Lall, in expressing similar view, not only chided Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo for adding his “pound not two cents” to the matter, but seeking to sway public opinion even before the inquiry started. Zeroing on the credibility of the process, Hinds took aim at Jagdeo concluding, even before the inquiry gets underway and TOR known, that the findings will reveal the main opposition, the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change guilty.
The VP, after initially expressing non-support for internal review of the elections by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), citing that elections matters are before the court and some of the Elections staff are no longer working with GECOM, now supports a COI.
According to him, the COI “will find that APNU+AFC… sought to steal the elections and this COI shall be very uncomfortable for the same people who are calling for the internal [GECOM] review.” Hinds pointed out that such utterances raise concern about a pre-mediated outcome and efforts to sway public opinion in a particular direction. The National Recount unearthed grave irregularities and acts not consistent with the Representation of the People Act admitted even by GECOM. However, the Commission did not factor in those irregularities in the declaration of the results.
It was pointed out by Lall that COIs in Guyana have never been conclusionary, serving only to raise more questions than answers. He asked that he be placed on record making known that the COI is a government creature alone to shift it in one direction, to put it out on the air, and get whatever leverage they can from it. “It’s the end game and that is what we are coming to.”
The last thing we want is to have a COI for the sake of having one and not seek to follow normal procedures of inquiry, said Jeffrey. Similar concern was highlighted by APNU+AFC Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, Roysdale Forde SC. In an interview with Village Voice, on Wednesday, Forde not only rubbished the process but offered that given elections matters are working their way through the courts, the timeliness of the COI “seems that [it] has been established to deliberately thwart the election petition proceedings.“
“People have to say no to the COI!” said Jeffery