By GHK Lall
It does not appear that there is anything on which the government and opposition can agree regarding the elections machinery as a whole, and the state of elections readiness by GECOM. To repeat for emphasis: almost nothing, if absolutely not anything. So there is a hard, jarring standstill on most things, except the clashing rhetoric, which only indicates a relentless drive towards escalation. There is also an equivalent obstinacy.
Strident disagreements flare over logistics, finances, and more recently training. Depending on which side is listened to, there is the positively good (all required elements are in place); or the excruciating plodding of an all deliberate speed holding pattern for a clean, satisfactory apron on the ground (No, those elements are not!). In this small place, things cannot be that far apart, as to be that irreconcilable, and that irremediable. Something has to give. The problem with that is there is no one around, none willing to give anything. Not a single inch. Again, on anything in what has spiraled into a chess game played out on a national board that has no positional markings, and one that is turned upside down. Hapless citizens, concerned and suspicious supporters, and conscientious objectors, when they can be found, are all trapped in the middle in a great expanse of uncertainty.
Who is telling what? And what is really what? The conversations, if they may be so labeled, have ranged from the shrill and desperate to the unhearing and unblinking. There is an inexorable method to the madness. The madness is not partisan. But I think that the time is way past to cut to the chase and cut out the haziness, the uncertainty and, at the crux, the preening and nonsense.
I believe that the moment is now to steer the conversation along a different path. First, there has to be holding of all the other elections related ingredients in suspension, whatever those may be, and however either side prioritizes or minimizes. The sole focus has to be, must be, on that disputed, frustrating, and infuriating list of eligible voters. Or, to it put more accurately, a questioning of the acceptability of that number, which has made its way into a Demerara Waves Online News article dated March 14th titled, “More controversy over GECOM’s decision leading up to general elections.”
Acknowledging right upfront and holding aside for a moment my own spiritual identification with the government, I have to ask: how can anyone in this country look at a list of supposedly eligible voters that contains 633,156 names out of a population of approximately 750,000 citizens, and not have a problem? How can anyone, be he or she government believer or opposition faithful, examine such a list and find that acceptable? Or anything resembling reasonable? It is just not anywhere near to anything realistic. Surely, there are many children in this country? Also, this could mean that there are very few Guyanese who have migrated to other places. And I would be inclined to think that Guyana has its share of the dead.
If I am the government, any government, I am not accepting such a list. I mean that is a non-decision, as the number itself tells its own story. There would be no budging on that 85% eligibility figure. When looked at slowly and dispassionately, this is where everything comes to a full stop; the government has the upper hand on this one unless it is a number concocted out of nowhere. All of the rest is just talk; the other matters, as important as they are, mean nothing. In view of the disturbed and ugly history of Guyanese elections, the hard number of the disagreeable and disagreed upon eligible list aces every other consideration, or, as it is, makes jokers of us all. That is why it has to be given the highest priority of remedial action. Let there be some light on this thing. Florida had its hanging chads; Guyana has a list that would hang all of us.
It is appreciated that Guyanese voters (and nonvoters, too) usually succumb to the silly during elections seasons. This one projects every inclination to be sillier (worst) than those that went before. Still, I believe that the sanitizing of the list, and the sanity of the willing to do what is practical and makes sense have to prevail. I am somewhat guarded about that bit on sanity and its application to the local population. Can be a risky assumption, since that commodity fled these shores in bulk for an extended period.
I now strongly believe that the lack of merit in the list has proceeded past the point of debate. The list is wrong, is unacceptable, and it has to be fixed. First and fast. There is trouble with the latter. Given as it stands, the date should be rightfully extended; and enough time should be allowed to put in final form with a number that is less incredible and less alarming to all. Last, I suggest that the shallow grandstanding be concluded.