WPA urges “confrontation” with govt on electoral, constitutional reform before local govt elections

Last Updated on Sunday, 4 September 2022, 15:11 by Denis Chabrol

Tacuma Ogunseye

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Saturday challenged other opposition parties to “confront” the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration on electoral and constitutional reform before local government elections. 

“The time for talk is over. The PPP only understands pressure. The PPP will only crack when we beat sense into their head and the WPA is confident that anything short of will not give us the kind of results that we want,” WPA Executive Member Tacuma Ogunseye told a public meeting in Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara. 

He said there were a total of eight related and inseparable issues that would have to be used to “confront the PPP and bring this country to a halt.”

That call was issued against Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo’s strong rebuff of the opposition’s demand for the removal of the names of deceased and migrated persons from Guyana’s database of registrants. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has said that while it understands concerns in some quarters about the voters list containing about 680,000 names and the country’s population is about 750,000 persons, the constitution does not allow the removal of names from the national database of registrants. 

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has since publicly stated that his coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) would support amendments to Guyana’s constitution and the relevant legislation to allow for a clean voters list and the use of fingerprints at polling stations before electors are allowed to vote. Mr Norton has repeatedly said that APNU+AFC would return to power if there are those safeguards. 

Mr Ogunseye challenged the People’s Congress Reform-dominated APNU and the AFC to urgently address those reforms before the next Local Government Elections that are now possible at the earliest February 13, 2023. “You cannot say that you would ignore the struggle for a clean voters list and go into the local government elections, the PPP will chop your head off and you are also creating the conditions for them chopping your head off in the national elections.

“You cannot say that we’ll be making a compromise on the Elections (Commission) Chair because making a compromise on the Elections Chair only guarantees the PPP victory and deprives us of having any significant constitutional reform,” said Mr Ogunseye, a veteran Guyanese politician.

He also publicly warned other parties in the joint opposition against ignoring the proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act “in the image and likeness of the PPP” that would provide for, among other things, the division of Region/ District Four (Demerara-Mahaica). “If we don’t fight on that, then we are conceding electoral defeat in the national elections,” he said. Government has said that would allow for better management of that district for elections and avoid a repeat of efforts to rig the March 2, 2020 polls there. 

Mr Ogunseye also pointed to the need for constitutional reform to bring an end to winner-takes-all politics in Guyana, and prevent the PPP from getting a second term of office with access to huge amounts of oil wealth. “If we don’t fight for a renovation of the governance system, we are likely to find ourselves in a situation where those who may win the election by one vote, which will give them one seat, have all the power and we with our 49 percent have nothing. For the WPA, the time has come to end that,” he said.

The WPA Executive Member feared that if the PPP remained in office for another 10 years on “the oil money”, “they will corrupt the entire nation.” 

Taking a glance at the international scene, he reasoned that the PPP was watching the United States presidential elections in the hope that the Republicans would make a comeback. He said since the Democratic government of incumbent President Joe Biden came to office it has changed the US foreign policy posture towards Guyana by demanding and end to racial discrimination, equal access to the oil resources and shared governance here. “We are saying that the opposition has to take advantage of the US policy and we have to have our eyes on the US elections and we have to get our business settled before the next US elections,” he said. 

The Guyana government is already on record as questioning the fairness of the analysis contained in a United States Agency for International Development-sponsored Governance Assessment on Guyana. 

The Irfaan Ali-led administration has denied that it has been discriminating against Afro-Guyanese in the award of contracts, employment of persons, delivery of cash-grants/ transfers, allocation of lands, access to oil and gas sector jobs and contracts, and the provision of social and physical infrastructure.