Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Rigging
(Aired 11 June 2011)

    I am ashamed to say it but in this country due to lack of proper information given to the public, mostly by lazy media practitioners/political activists etc., there is a misunderstanding about what constitutes electoral fraud i.e. rigging of elections.

     And I must share in the blame since as a media owner I failed to make these fraudulent practices known to the public over the years but in my own defence I did do a commentary called "Representation of the Peoples act" aired in Guyana on 13th February 2006! But mostly it is the opposition who have failed to make these facts known to the public even as they themselves were being accused of rigging every election after the1964 elections up to 1992.

     The online internet dictionary defines rigging as follows and I quote  "Although technically the term 'electoral fraud' covers only those acts which are illegal, the term is sometimes used to describe acts which although legal, are considered to be morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of electoral laws or in violation of the principles of democracy".

      The provisions of the 1990 Representation of the Peoples Act were forced on Desomnd Hoyte by the Carter Centre and resulted in it being made law in this country, incredibly since the 1992 Election which was held under these laws, the PPP have not abided by the provisions of the very law which produced what they like to call the return of democracy to Guyana, but did democracy return. Juan Edghill sometimes uses it but only the convenient parts! You can't have it both ways ladies and gentlemen if the government wants to invoke the Representation of the Peoples Act, they must invoke all of it, not just the convenient parts of it

    As I said when I did the commentary "the specific act setting out the behaviour of the political parties during an election is called the Representation of the People's Act, I will call it the ACT in the rest of this comment, it would be impossible to look at all of the areas of the ACT since its a big document 154 pages so I am going to point to those parts of it which are the most violated in this country for example, section XIII articles Nos. 115-127 election Expenses, Section XIV article Nos. 128 to 133 Illegal Payment, Employment and Hiring; section XV Illegal practices and Section XVI Corrupt Practices! It would not be possible to go through all of the laws this act sets forth and these are current laws modified as recently as act #30 of 1990 and act #15 of 2000 so they are not old obsolete laws they are in force now! And should be enforced.

    In our ACT 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. It also states that a maximum number of 53 out of 65 seats may give G$50,000 each, so this law seeks to level the playing field to disallow a party like the PPP, who have raided the consolidated fund more than any other government in our history, to have a massive advantage over their opponents in an election by putting out an alleged 400 million dollars in 2006 to overwhelm the opposition, this according to our law is rigging and electoral fraud! It is true that the amount allocated by law in the 1990 act may be a little low by today's standards but in this poor country why should the opposition parties be forced to compete in such a one sided contest given the non-inclusiveness of the Westminster system? We should therefore limit election expenses to a maximum of say $30-$50 million i.e $500,000-$800,000 per seat, and modify the act accordingly. Since if Hoyte had to conduct the 1992 election under these rules, it is only fair the PPP be forced to do the same.

   An Organisation of American States report on the 2001 elections, states quite clearly that to pretend that the incumbent government i.e the PPP, did not accept contributions from contractors, who have been benefiting from all of the corruption in the awarding of government contracts, drug lords etc. is ridiculous, since it is clear that it happened. So ladies and gentlemen all of these contributions from known PPP supporters who have been made billionaires in this country in exchange for corrupt contracts, constitute rigging.

   The OAS report also speaks about the PPP using their monopoly of radio, the Chronicle Newspaper and the NCN television network which spew government propaganda ad nauseam all day, as also an unfair advantage and is therefore rigging the election, since they do not make these facilities available to the opposition; even though this monstrous propaganda machine is subsidised by the taxes of the opposition's members of the population.

   Making the day of election a public holiday in 2006 for the first time ever had the effect of disenfranchising many opposition voters who turned up to vote at their registered place of voting only to find that their name was moved to somewhere else, and there was no transportation to the other location. There must be no more holidays on Election Day, its ridiculous and it could not have been an accident, Bharrat Jagdeo deliberately did this to give an unfair advantage to the PPP and it is therefore rigging. Transportation is essential to move the voters around on Election Day and this raises another breach of the ACT which specifically forbids any political party from coercing votes by providing transportation to the place of poll, the trucks of certain known big contractors benefiting from all of the corruption in this country were clearly seen in 2001 and 2006 involved in this activity. The police did nothing.

    The act also states clearly that as a campaign tactic promising government money or any monetary reward to certain areas/persons in an election year within a certain amount of months prior to that election is illegal, for example the massive cabinet outreach that the PPP did in this country in 2006 was, I am told by legal counsel, a violation of the ACT and is therefore rigging, what is particularly reprehensible is to have a cabinet outreach that close to the 2006 election which used state funds to make campaign promises and the people in this country fell for it, but the promises the PPP made were never kept. A road in region comes to mind. all of this is rigging, all electoral fraud!

   Especially when these outreach took the cabinet to the remote Amerindian villages at the state's expense, not the Party's, to make promises to the Amerindians and the end result was that not only were most of the promises not kept, but according to one analyst the Amerindians were robbed of their legal share of forestry money for 4 years by this government until Christopher Ram pointed it out to the public, this action alone should inform the Amerindians not to vote for the PPP since they will keep them poor until the next election and give them a few gifts and make a few promises which will not be kept so that they can remain poor until the next election when this ridiculous pantomime will be repeated. The complete flooding in region 9 at this time should also inform them that the PPP cannot run this country.

   Also the Amerindian act makes it difficult for anyone to approach an Amerindian village to campaign without the permission of the minister or the tushows. This further isolates the Amerindians who now comprise 9% of the voting population and who are living in abject poverty [according to Dr. Melissa Ifill's study done for the ERC] so that they can be bribed to vote for the PPP in exchange for an outboard engine, even as they have been deprived of wealth since forestry operations are conducted on their lands without paying them their share of the royalty as was supposed to happen under the Amerindian act, as will also happen when a substantial portion of their lands will be flooded without compensation at Amelia; this difficulty which the opposition faces of campaigning in the Amerindian villages is also electoral fraud.

   So to sum up the situation, the opposition have their work cut out to win an election under these circumstances and because there is probably no possibility of getting the courts in this country to enforce the relevant portions of the Representation of the People's Act, the PPP is getting away with all of this rigging and electoral fraud and the international community and the International Financial Institutions, which give these people grants and loans to run this country into the ground whilst enriching the higher functionaries of their party, are looking on and are saying nothing. The good men in this country are asking them to say something especially, those countries who claim to have a vested interest in the outcome of Guyana's elections.

      But I say that under these conditions this is clear cut rigging which have a fundamental  effect on the outcome of our elections and as such are as blatant as the rigging the PPP accuse the PNC of doing in the past, except that it is more subtle and insidious, but it is every bit as reprehensible.

    This is your country ladies and gentlemen and you have to decide, since if we all have a vote to decide who will rule us after an election and this since right is enshrined in the constitution, then all of this rigging are constitutional violations. And evil will again triumph.