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ACDA rejects US electoral reform project

Last Updated on Friday, 14 May 2021, 15:44 by Denis Chabrol

The African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) on Friday became the second civil society organisation to reject the role of the United States-headquartered International Republican Institute (IRI) to reform Guyana’s elections laws and the governance system.

Restating its position on the need for a government of national unity, ACDA said the 18-month reform project was part of a United States- IRI- People’s Progressive Party (PPP) “plan”, ACDA cautioned Afro-Guyanese against being part of a process that would exclude them from benefitting from the hydrocarbon wealth. “Since these developments are taking place in the context of unprecedented wealth from our oil and gas resources ACDA calls on African Guyanese to be vigilant and not to be co-opted in a process designed to undermine our fundamental interest – that goes beyond elections. We say no to African-Guyanese exclusion whatever is the pretext,” said the 29-year old ACDA.

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) one day earlier suggested that the IRI project be suspended and Guyana instead turn to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for help with electoral reform only after the domestic conditions of compromise have been created.

ACDA further protested the exclusion of Afro-Guyanese organisations from the initial talks of constitutional and electoral reform. That association strongly signaled to the Afro-Guyanese backed A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) that it would be denounced if it goes ahead with the IRI project. “ACDA will not endorse the destruction of African-Guyanese interest even if the political party that the majority of African Guyanese empowered to be their political representatives choose this path willingly or unwillingly,” ACD said. The three opposition-aligned election commissioners want the two major political parties to agree either in or out of parliament to the IRI project before it goes ahead.

ACDA said it views the exclusion of African organisations, other stakeholders, and the parliamentary opposition from the initial process as an attempt to undermine the fundamental interest of the African Community and other groups.

But in policy briefs, which have been already circulated to the government and the opposition, IRI suggested that it was committed to a participatory process involving civil society organisations (CSOs) and taking into account proven models in the Caribbean. “Key actors advance electoral reform based on regional plus international best practices and standards” and “CSOs implement joint advocacy and  public awareness campaign to create additional understanding of and pressure for electoral and constitutional reforms,” one of the IRI briefs states.

IRI also says its plans to engage students of the university and other higher education learning institutions as well as rely on scientific data on what Guyanese would like to see be done in the area of electoral reform.

In making out a case for the radical overhaul of the governance system to encompass executive power sharing, ACDA said  the winner-takes-all system prevents Guyana from reaching its full potential, discourages Guyanese from putting their best energies and talents to the country’s development.

Arguing that the the 2020 election crisis is a product of this un-workable form of governance, ACDA said the current system results in a racially and economically polarized Guyana that prevents the country from being true to its motto of One People One Nation and One Destiny.