Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Representation of the People's Act
(Aired 13 February 2006)

     On February 6th and 7th 2006 I was invited to attend a workshop entitled "Media Ethics Coverage of Election Issues" held at the Georgetown Club.

    I had more or less decided to send Nills Campbell Editor in Chief of The Evening News, since I was working on something else at the time and could not possibly spare two full days for this seminar.

     Now for some strange reason people from USAID Guyana Democratic Consolidation and Conflict Resolution [GDCCR] project, actually called me on Friday 3rd February and begged me to make a special effort to attend. Now I am not saying that this was some sort of compliment, it could very well be that they thought my commentaries too provocative and perhaps wanted to influence me to tone them down, or it could have been that they thought that I had some influence with you the public, and wanted me to use that influence to help them conduct a peaceful and meaningful election since whatever else I may do I will not lie to you.

   Whatever the reason I am happy I went, since I had the pleasure of hearing one Dr. Jeff Cumberbatch speaking about our Representation of the People's Act.    

    Before I get to the interesting points raised by Dr. Cumberbatch I want to tell you that anyone who is anyone in the media have signed on to a code of conduct governing our behaviour during the upcoming elections, but to date none of the political parties have signed a similar code as they are requested to do, just as we were.

  Ladies and Gentlemen I want it to be clearly understood that I signed this code on two conditions firstly that I would be satisfied that those who will be appointed to monitor and pronounce on our transgressions are impartial people, the method of their selection must guarantee that; since merely stating that a person is impartial does not make them so, I repeat they must be appointed in a manner that guarantees it. Secondly If the political Parties contesting this election do not sign a similar code then I will not be honouring the one I signed which is supposed to be "conducive to peaceful elections"

  For example, I would accept nominees who are approved by a 2/3 vote of the people in parliament to be media monitors.

    Now a code is not the law, we signed it as responsible media workers and we promised to abide by it, but it is not the law.

   Now we come back to Dr Cumberbatch and what is the law. Cumberbatch is a lecturer in law at some law school in the Caribbean probably Hugh Wooding or the University of Barbados at least he is teaching Law in a place where the law actually exists and is practiced, not like here. And I want to congratulate and thank the UG/USAID for bringing this man here to tell us that in out laws there exist statutes that if properly examined would lead one to the inexorable conclusion that we have not had a legitimate election in this country in a long, long time!

   The specific act setting out the behaviour of the political parties during an election is called the Representation of the People's Act, it would be impossible in this commentary to look at all of the areas of the act so I am going to concentrate on articles part XIII 115-127 election Expenses, part XIV 128 to 133 Illegal Payment, Employment, Hiring, part XV Illegal practices and Part XVI Corrupt Practices!

   It would not be possible to go through all of these laws this act sets forth and these are current laws modified as recently as 30 of 1990 and 15 of 2000 so they are not old obsolete laws they are in force now!

    Articles 115 to 116 makes it clear that every political figure/s Parties contesting an election should appoint an election agent who will collect and manage all of the campaign contributions and that the actual candidates should not be collecting money directly from any person or persons who want to donate election financing. However the candidate is not indemnified if the election agent conducts collections in a corrupt manner. Articles 116 lays out in the clearest possible terms that no candidate will spend more than G$25,000 on campaign expenses using his personal money unless he declares it 14 days after the election to his election Agent, if the does not then he is guilty of a criminal offence. The election agent will also put someone to pay all expenses concerning postage, stationary, correspondence telegrams and all monies spent on correspondence in and out of Guyana including electioneering outside of Guyana and all such sums must be declared within 14 days after the election results are made public.

   Article 118 is particularly interesting and levels the playing field for democracy, I don't have any doubt in my mind that anyone in this country who is not completely behind the PPP will never be allowed to share meaningfully in the national pie [no contracts, no consultancy, no proper jobs in Government, no concessions of any sort] depriving non PPP supporters of economic power making them incapable of mobilising themselves to mount any sort of a legitimate challenge to the PPP in an election. Article 118 lays the basis for levelling the playing field

 (1) No expense shall be incurred by or on behalf of a group of

candidates and no payment shall be made on their behalf whether

before, during or after the election, on account of or in respect of the

conduct and management of the election—

(a) in excess of the sum of fifty thousand dollars multiplied

by the number of candidates not exceeding 53 on the list of

candidates;

(b) for purposes other than the following—

(i) the expenses of printing, advertising, publishing,

issuing and distributing addresses and notices;

(ii) the expense of stationery, messages, postages and

telegrams;

(iii) the expense of holding public meetings and holding

outside Guyana meetings open to electors generally;

(iv) the expenses of committee rooms, no more than one

such room being situated in each district within the meaning

of the National Registration Act;

(v) expenses permitted under section 130;

(vi) the personal expenses of candidates.

Representation of the People 95 Cap. 1:03

L.R.O. 3/1998

(2) In determining the total expenditure incurred by a group of

candidates no regard shall be had to amounts paid by candidates under

section 116(2).

(3) If an election agent incurs or pays election expenses in excess

of the sum specified in subsection (1), or for purposes other than those

therein specified, he shall be guilty of an illegal practice.

(4) If a candidate pays any election expenses except his personal

expenses otherwise than by or through the election agent of his group

of candidates or in pursuance of section 123 he shall be guilty of an illegal act!

Dr. Comberbatch is very clear on this issue this is the law and there may be of course be increases to this capped amount according to the value of the Guyana dollar in 2000 compared to now so adjustments are in order, in the last election the PPP spent an alleged 400 million compared to about 60 million that was raised by the PNC and the other parties. This 400 million was money that if called upon to account from whence it came, the PPP may not be able to do so therefore according to these laws I just read for you, not only did they spend hundreds of millions more than they were supposed to, they cannot account for it, and probably unless corruption in public office comes into the picture, they cannot account for it. When this happens democracy dies, since the bigger the budget the better chance you have of mobilising for an election. I will return to this Representation of the People's Act next week; since for the establishment of Democracy in this country it is important. I know that this will turn out to be a 10 minute commentary but we want change more than 35% of you say so, well to change we have to make the process transparent, fair and equitable, you have to insist on it with me.