Pandemic poll

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

THE PRIME Minister followed his predecessor Kamla Persad-Bissessar in announcing the general election in Parliament (Patrick Manning announced the 2010 date via a faxed media release).

But though Dr Rowley rightly put Parliament centre stage last Friday, he gave the people a date and little else.

The ink cannot have dried on the election writ before sticking points emerged. What about covid19?

What about people locked out of the country? As at April 22, they numbered 330,000, according to the Government.

“The borders and the elections are not one and the same,” Dr Rowley said. “We cannot tie the election to the completion of the repatriation.”

In fact, it is knowledge of the limits of repatriation and the possibility of a second wave of the virus that demand action. Not all the 330,000 may wish to return to vote. But we cannot shrug our shoulders if we purport to be a democracy.

Every citizen has rights. And every vote counts. In a first-past-the-post system in which a handful of marginal seats determines the outcome, this is particularly so.

The same fervour evident in screening activities over the weekend has been sorely lacking when it comes to dealing with these basic matters.

Virtual rallies, remote screenings, socially-distanced walkabouts are not the be-all and end-all of what is needed.

MPs should have intervened long ago to give the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) more tools well before the bell rang.

It is worrying that, when the confusion surrounding Guyana’s election is still occupying the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), our politicians seem to have learned little from it.

Our election rules are complicated, and not always clearly understood. This was demonstrated during the last local government elections, when top state officials were caught unaware of the fact that certain business people were entitled to vote twice.

Equally disconcerting is the lack of co-ordination now among public officials over the health issues surrounding the poll.

One day, medical officials say “no mask, no vote;” on another, the EBC says there’s no such decree.

This lack of clarity is a recipe for pandemonium come August 10 and its aftermath.

The EBC, too, is giving signs of being under pressure.

It missed a Parliament deadline last month. It appears to have adopted a piecemeal approach to the release of information about quarantined voters, candidates and covid19 measures.

The pandemic aside, it should have been ready for even a snap poll. It had five years to prepare.

Perhaps we should take comfort in the fact that Parliament can be recalled if some emergency arises requiring legislative intervention.

Come August 10, Dr Rowley expects to return to the Red House. But it is not an altogether remote possibility that he, and all MPs, may have to return sooner.


"Pandemic poll"

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