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By GHK Lall
I think that we are going about this whole registration business in the wrong way. We are trying to achieve objectives in one of two ways. First, we are content to go around in circles. Second, there seems to be some self-congratulation over participating in shortcuts or cutting corners. Whatever the objectives for the PPP and PNC, and I give credit for the noble over the self-serving, there is difficulty in appreciating how the national interest is served.
The so-called “Clean List” possesses both truth and trap. The first truth is that it perpetuates all of the misgivings and all of the battles that flare up in the aftermath of elections. In truth, there have not been an election in the last several decades where the entire apparatus has not come under the harshest of condemnations. From GECOM to the runup to the actual exercising of the franchise to the counting and reporting of the counting to the tabulating and reporting, every piece of the process, and at each painful step in a tortured way, there is dispute and disagreement with many devils unleashed thereafter. Our elections trap us in a national horror show that even those observing the process, or those daring to involve themselves in any recount, are themselves subject to abuse and insult, with staining of their integrity. For all the above reasons, and many left out, I regret that my position is that what we are doing, or consenting to get done, today are nothing but half-measures that are sure to result in the half-cooked and lead to the half-sick. It is timely for some real-life examples. I think we are trying to fix an old, dilapidated, and broken-down vehicle (or piece of machinery) by painting it over, performing some servicing via changing the oil and filter, checking tire pressure, filling it up with gas, and expecting it to perform better than before for the long haul. Somebody is out of their minds to believe that a splash of paint and polishing is going to deliver an election (season), and leave us all breathing a sigh of satisfaction. It is like giving a patient on life support some vitamins and coconut water and expecting a miracle.
Let’s face it: our elections system from top to bottom is in a bad state, and unless we are prepared to get down in the bushes and swamps, we are not going to get anywhere. To be frank, I am not so sold on the idea that even a complete overhaul would satisfy a whole lot of Guyanese, given the life and death struggles surrounding local elections due to all that is involved. We have to make fresh start by scrapping what we have, throwing away all the old (baby, bathwater and all, also don’t keep any spare diapers), and beginning all over from scratch. There is no other way if this society is going to have a clean elections slate, possibly draw closer to some semblance of an acceptable elections process and result.
Unsurprisingly, the latest word making the rounds around town is of this “Clean List.” What really is that phantom, that jumbie of the imagination? Whose definition of what is represented by a Clean List meets the bill. And who would be so tactically shaky, so unwise, as to fall for that latest electoral sleight of hand? Since we don’t have clean people running most things around here, somebody give me a hand, please, and tell me how are we going to come up with something CLEAN for what is the arguably the dirtiest part of this nation’s apparel? This is asking for trouble.
I plead for the courtesy of a quick aside: a short time ago, two men came to my residence with clipboard in hand asking for my name. The word was that they were part of this sanitizing (my words) Clean List exercise. Thinking they were from GECOM, I was disappointed to learn that they were from one of the two major political parties. While I understand that this is what we have in place currently, I find the thought of having personal details in the hands and files of any political party most alarming, as well as repugnant. To ensure that everyone gets the message about where I am, this applies to any and all political parties. I move along.
Regarding the calls for reform, I think this is tremendous step that has the potential for considerable enhancement of what we have at present. As long as reform is comprehensive and genuine, we stand a chance of emerging from existing elections controversies and chaos with a better product. It would be something robust, reliable, and hopefully nearer to rig-proof. But already I have a problem, which is sure to cause distress. Governments control the elections machinery in Guyana, and they have the greatest say as to what ends up being the final reform components. I think that this gives any government a distinctive edge in participating in, and influencing, what comes out of reform visions, engagements, and actually putting it in motion. Governments hold all the trump cards, and they usually don’t surrender any of them. The PPP Government is not squeamish or a wallflower where any element that menaces its existence in office shows its face. No matter how minute, or how improbable, such may appear to be, threatening reform developments would be nipped in the bud. That can be deposited in any bank with assurance.
Now it is time to take stock and close this out. We can comfort ourselves with Carter Center visits, and structure (and face of GECOM), and the distance that we have traveled from the 1970s and 80s. We have used different pathways, but we are still arriving at the same destinations. Who tried to cheat. Who won but should have lost. Who is disenfranchised and who empowered wrongly. Clearly, something is out of whack, and the only true remedy is to begin from the very beginning.