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Mild drama at swearing in of PPPC-nominated GECOM commissioners

PPPC-nominated GECOM Commissioner takes the oath of office before President David Granger with her personal copy of the Holy Koran. Standing is Protocol Officer, Retired Col. Francis Abraham paying keen attention to see whether Ms. Shadick was saying the oath correctly from her memory. (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

There was mild drama at the swearing in of two People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-nominated members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) when one of them opted to do it her way.

Attorney-at-Law, Bibi Safora Shadick was first invited to take the oath of office. When Protocol Officer, Retired Colonel Francis Abraham presented her with the book to read the oath, she signaled to him that she did not need it.

Instead, she relied on her memory and said the oath flawlessly while Abraham glanced in the book to see how well she was doing.

Not only did Shadick walk with her own Holy Koran to take the oath, she declined to use a pen offered her by Colonel Abraham to affix her signature to the oath. The former minister, known for her sometimes feisty manner, promptly whipped out a pen of her own to the amusement of Abraham and Minister of State Joseph Harmon.

When it was Robeson Benn’s turn to take the oath of office, there was little fuss and the process was quite normal.

Shadick and Benn replace Mahmood Shaw and Athmaram Mangar who resigned from the seven-member elections management authority for personal reasons.

In brief remarks, President David Granger signaled that the way was now clear for GECOM to continue its work. “GECOM is now back up to strength and is capable of discharging its responsibilities,” he said.

Contrary to claims by the PPPC that it lost the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections due to irregularities, the Guyanese leader used the opportunity to register his satisfaction with the way the 2011 and 2015 general elections were run. “I certainly would like to congratulate the Chairman, Chief Elections Officer and the members of GECOM, over the last two elections… an air of stability has returned to Guyana,” the President added.

“So congratulations and we look forward to the performance of your duties to ensure that we continue to have elections in Guyana, which are credible and which receive the support of the Guyanese People,” he said.

Prior to teaming up, Granger’s A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change had together controlled the 65-seat National Assembly by one seat at the November 2011 polls but the PPPC held the plurality as it was the party with the single largest number of seats. When the two parties coalesced for elections earlier this year, they defeated the PPPC for the first time in 23 years by one seat.

The appointment of Benn and Shadick comes at a time when the Granger-led administration is eager to hold Local Government Elections for the first time since 1994, though Guyana’s constitution requires that they be held every three years.

Government had hoped to hold the elections by December but GECOM sources say that is not possible until any time from mid-February 2016.