by Zena Henry
Political parties contesting the 2015 General Elections gave their commitment on Wednesday, April 29 to adhere to the regulatory structure of the Code of Conduct relative to this year’s General polls.
With accusations already flying over inappropriate behaviour by both major parties, a special occasion was held at the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) Command Centre, High Street Kingston to have them give the written commitment of desisting from any destruction campaigning.
Several invited persons including the international community, civil society and NGO’s were present with GECOM executives to witness what the agency’s Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally described as “an occasion of historic proportions.”
The Chairman said that Code is not just a symbolic document, but “emerged from the genuine conviction relative to the need for such guiding document.”
He was stern in his description of statements being made at news conferences and road-side platforms by political parties saying that, these campaign activities are suppose to edify and inform, “not to numb, mystify and create doubt and social unrest.” Surujbally charged that adherence to the Code elevates to a moral high ground – “away from the currently deteriorating thrust and parry of political campaigning … away from the escalation of the mundane and the prosaic, and into inflated nonsense and untruth.”
The Chair opined that while the Code is self regulatory and voluntary on the part of the parties it should be their Holy Grail” for campaigning and seen as more than just a guideline. GECOM is not mandated to hold parties to the Code, but tasked the media to “shame” and “highlight” persons who break the rules on the campaign trail.
People’s Progressive Party General Secretary represented President Donald Ramotar who had other engagements and had signed the document prior. While Rohee was not available for comment, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Presidential candidate David Granger said his party is holding to the regulations but criticized the PPP/C saying they have already broken the rules of the Code.
Describing the document as “explosive” and reading extracts relating to the use of state resources; vehicles, equipment and personnel, Granger said the PPP is already guilty. He also spoke of PPP- supported publications; cartoons and utterances inciting public disorder and fear and stated that his party already had cause to approach a media house to retract a cartoon with negative undertones.
As it relates to citizens rights to political affiliation, and parties believing in the sanctity of human and rejected of taking human life, Granger said the PPP started their campaign with the death of Courtney Crum-Ewing. After poking the PPP saying that he is unaware how they could sign the Code in good conscience, Granger explained that his party has nothing to gain from inciting fear and promoting violence.
International observers present applauded the political parties for making the step saying that it is one in the right direction. US Embassy Charge d’Affaire Bryan Hunt, said that the Code is necessary for Guyana and necessary to guide parties on the campaign trail.
UK High Commissioner Gregory James Quinn also expressed support for the Code and for the political parties that would have signed on.