WPA prepared to withdraw from coalition if electoral irregularities surface; defends GECOM Chairman

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 October 2017, 19:50 by Denis Chabrol

The headquarters of the Working People’s Alliance, New Garden Street, Queenstown, Georgetown.

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Sunday  endorsed President David Granger’s appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, but made it clear it would break away from the coalition if there are electoral irregularities.

“WPA publicly commits to the position that, if elections are not proceeding as ‘’free and fair’’, we would publicly withdraw from the Coalition, but would not on that support, the PPP/C in any guise whatsoever,” the WPA said in a statement.

This is the most direct statement coming from any of the parties in the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated coalition. The Alliance For Change (AFC), which is not part of the PNCR-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), has vowed to be watchful of any electoral malpractices but has not stated categorically that it would walk away from the coalition.

There are fears in some quarters that Patterson, regarded by the opposition People’s Progressive Party as being pro-PNCR, would cast vote along with the three pro-PNCR commissioners of the seven-member Elections Commission on crucial issues.

For its part, the WPA virtually condemned such views that the appointment of the GECOM Chairman was part of a plan that has been hatched to rig elections. That party warned Guyanese and civil society against taking that posture.

“It is, however, politically important for the country that democratic forces do not allow the appointment of Justice Patterson to be read as a de facto depiction of the coalition’s collective intent to rig elections. This, from the WPA’s standpoint, is certainly not the case. Those who wish the coalition ill, would hope this becomes the normative public position, especially for activist Civil Society. While not everyone, there are clearly several rogues and charlatans who are deceptively promoting this false equivalence. Buyers beware!.”

The WPA said it is determined not to be ensnared by the PPP, on principle, in any form, guise, or manner, in their desperate efforts at revisionism/ historical rewriting/ opportunism/ and crude hypocrisy.

The WPA said it did not and could not have participated in the process to pick Patterson because that is the constitutional role of the President and the Opposition Leader.  At the same time, the party defended the appointment of Patterson, saying that it was constitutional. “It is our conviction that, on strict construction, the selection procedure used so far has followed the letter of the law and the constitution, if not the spirit,” that party said.

In apparent reaction to the PPP’s condemnation of Patterson’s appointment because he and several other senior PNCR members had been pallbearers of the body of PNCR Leader, Desmond Hoyte who was an Attorney-at-Law, the WPA said nothing was wrong with that.  “The ad hominem attacks and character assassination of Justice Patterson know no bounds. His Christian belief and practice, age, paying last rites to a colleague and friend all are fair game, despite comparators on the lists submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. At least, no viral complaints have yet been made against him as a thief, abuser and scoundrel, for comparators to be drawn,” said the party.

The WPA further debunked PPP claims that Patterson was being paid GYD$800,000 as advisor to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams and that he never served as Chief Justice of Grenada. The party said Patterson was instead being paid GYD$20,000. “It (PPP) does so by framing a false narrative as the truth with the hope that the public would respond negatively to everything that the government is doing.”

Guyanese, according to that party, do not expect the government and the opposition to  find a solution to the current impasse and added that the political environment does not favour that.

Warning against the use of the GECOM Chairman’s appointment for “partisan political grandstanding and settling scores”, the WPA accused the PPP of executing a partisan agenda to soil the government. “It is the WPA’s considered opinion that the PPP intentionally set out to compromise the spirit of the process with the hope of using the outcome to embarrass the government and further its own partisan agenda,” the party said.

While the WPA says it respects the right and civic responsibility of citizens and their organizations to interpret and challenge the president’s action from both a constitutional and a political standpoint. it warned “against falling into the trap that is being set by the PPP and its allies.”

The business community, through its several organisations, has condemned President Granger’s unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chairman after he rejected the 18 names that Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo had submitted.

The key to avoiding similar disputes in the future, the WPA said, is constitutional reform to deal with GECOM appointments and others that require agreement between the President and the Opposition Leader.

The PPP has since asked the High Court to quash Patterson’s  appointment on several grounds.

A number of pro-Afro Guyanese have, meanwhile, lashed out at the East Indian-backed PPP and accused Jagdeo of deliberately framing the lists in such a manner to force the President to pick an Indo-Guyanese.