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The Alliance For Change (AFC), in a recent statement, said democratic government and democratic governance in Guyana were struck by two severe body blows, in a period of two weeks, by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government.
The two issues the party refers to are the amendment to the Representation of the People Act which removed residency requirements to vote and thereby allowing any whose name appears on the Voters List, even if not ordinarily resident in Guyana to return and on vote. The other incident is the cybercrime and racial hostility charges brought by the state against Mayor Pt. Ubraj Narine and Member of Parliament Sherrod Duncan.
These two grievous wounds, the AFC stated, must not be allowed. “The PPP Government is degrading democracy, dismantling governing arrangements, including free and fair elections, and are now justifying it in the name of democracy and the rule of law. We repeat…we are in a dangerous place.
Further, the party wanted to go on record emphatically denouncing what have been described as reprehensible and devastating developments by the PPP Government.
The full text follows: –
AFC Press Release on PPP’s assault on democracy in Guyana.
Recently, two severe body blows were struck at democratic government and democratic governance in a period of two weeks by the PPP Government.
- The first happened in Parliament on the 5th December 2022 when malign amendments to the National Registration Act and the Representation of the People Act were passed and which pertained to the deletion of the residency qualification to be a voter in Guyana.
The Government, master of the art of deception and distraction, has effectively subtracted out of section 6(2)(a) of the National Registration Act the express requirement which stipulated that on the qualifying date people who are registered must be people… “(a): who are resident in Guyana.” Further, it substituted for this mandatory residency qualification, which is the duty of GECOM to find and file, an alternative arrangement under a new Section 6(4) which stipulates “… at which registration officers shall receive:
(a) the application of registration of every person eligible therefore, with and address at the date of his application in the registration division in that district or any part thereof…”.
As regards amendment to the Representation of the People Act, the Government has by substitution of Section 2 of the Amendment Act 24 of 2022, knocked off the word “resident” and replaced same with “with registered address”; and, for the words “an elector’s residence within Guyana” substituted this with the words “an elector”.
Further and more alarmingly, the Government has installed a new part into the Representation of the People Act in a new section 33 A (6), which now stipulates : ‘’If the Commission so directs by order, the list of electors to choose the members of any local democratic organ (other than a regional democratic council) or local government authority shall consist of names extracted from the official list of electors prepared under this section and registered with an address in the area of that local democratic organ or local government authority.”
The previous position by Section 2 (3) was that the official list of electors for any division “shall be the preliminary list of the electors resident in that division.”
From all appearances, the PPP missed the amendment needed for the Local Government Elections Act to complete the circle. It obviously overlooked this residency qualification therein. One has to be ordinarily resident to be a voter in the Local Government Elections; and, “ordinarily resident” is given a meaning therein.
The AFC has already stated that there is only one deduction to be made by this scheme of the PPP. (It is, by sleight of hand, reliant upon a heavily criticised first instance judgment which arguably sought to prevent via this method any elongated delay of general elections after that infamous vote of no-confidence in 2018 December). The deduction is to have a voters list which will increasingly be bloated each year to come, and which will be abused via impersonations to the benefit of the PPP in future elections.
- The second severe almost mortal blow by the PPP to democratic government and governance happened out of an incident arising on New Market Street Georgetown on 12th December 2022. It is the vengeful attack on public figures’ freedom of expression as enshrined in our Constitution. The PPP Government has abused and misused its Executive powers in instructing the Police Force to use its prosecutorial powers to charge for offences under the Cybercrime Act and Racial Hostility Act. This instance, growing in number within recent times, has to do with charges against Mayor of Georgetown, Mr. Ubraj Narine, and APNU/AFC Parliamentarian, Sherod Duncan.
The AFC opines that the words uttered by the Mayor can never be described as words to excite hostility as intended by Parliament. However, the bulldozing of caravans belonging to Afro Guyanese; and, then the arbitrary charging of Narine and Duncan are actions which certainly tend towards exciting hostilities. The Mayor’s rhetorical questions and comments as to why the President does not want to work with him, and why some are bulldozed while others are appeased and placated, is fundamentally what must be stated in a democracy by public officials. Further, a reporter’s right to video a Mayor uttering those words for purposes of disseminating them on his FB page can never be an offence.
The PPP’s champions are well known to have been schooled in an authoritarian tradition in Communist States of years gone. They, however, have not unlearned anything from their sojourn there to equip them with a modicum of liberal tradition.
The AFC wishes to emphatically denounce as reprehensible these two devastating developments by the PPP Government. These two grievous wounds to democratic government and governance, which the PPP will want to go unnoticed, must not be allowed to. The PPP Government is degrading democracy, dismantling governing arrangements, including free and fair elections, and are now justifying it in the name of democracy and the rule of law. We repeat…we are in a dangerous place.