GEORGETOWN, Guyana, February 14, 2020 (CMC) – The 11 political parties, contesting the March 2 regional and general elections, have signed the Code of Conduct, developed by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC).
The Code serves as a mutual agreement on rules and expected behaviour of the political parties and their allies, during the election season.
ERC Chairman, Reverend John Smith, said he is pleased that the political parties have signed on to the Code, noting that it was the first time that the ERC embarked on such an endeavour.
“I would like to thank the officials of all the parties involved, for being available and for working with us, during the past weeks. This is also an historic moment for the ERC. It is the first time, since its establishment, it would have endeavoured to have a code of conduct for an election,” Smith remarked.
Reverend Smith also noted that there are other concerns that the Commission still has some concerns about, that it has been observing on the campaign trail. He said he hopes the Code of Conduct results in more responsible behaviour by the various campaigns.
“Internal reports, compiled from monitoring public meetings and the traditional and non-traditional media, including Facebook, are major cause for concern. With behavior and utterances not helpful to the efforts of promoting harmony, we urge all to work towards eliminating such public displays, through a more responsible approach, in an effort to ensure that the remaining period of the campaign is free of ethnic division, discrimination, hate speech, incitement and provocation,” Smith added.
Smith reiterated the ERC’s call for free and fair elections, and underscored the importance of the media being fair in its reporting, during this period.
He said the mass media is currently being monitored, adding that there is the need for all Guyanese to work together to ensure that the mandate of the Ethnic Relations Commission is adhered to.
The ERC official made it known that the ERC cannot deliver the mandate of the Commission alone, and the rest of Guyana must support its work.
The Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency and APNU+AFC’s General Secretary, Joseph Harmon, said, “I believe [the code of conduct] will honour a new period of political understanding, a new period, where we appreciate each other for our differences, but we understand that we are all working for the good of Guyana, and ultimately, that is really what it is all about. It’s not just about power, but about what is good for Guyana”.
Executive Secretary of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Zulfikar Mustapha, said the party would abide by the guidelines and expectations of the code.
“Our participation, here, this morning, reiterates our commitment for elections to be held free and fair and in an environment, where there is peace, tolerance and no intimidation, nor violence,” he said.
Apart from the two major political entities, the other parties to sign the Code are: A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Change Guyana, Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Organisation for the Victory of the People (OVP), People’s Republic Party (PRP), The Citizenship Initiative (TCI), The Federal United Party (FED-UP), The New Movement (TNM), and the United Republican Party (URP).
Meanwhile, the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Justice Claudette Singh, is lobbying for changes to be made to the Constitution that would allow persons, with disabilities, to vote by themselves.
As it is, persons with disabilities vote by proxy.
Yesterday, the Guyana Council of Organization for Persons with Disabilities joined forces with the International Republic Institute, in hosting a voter’s education campaign for members of the disabled community.
Justice Singh told the event that in keeping with inclusionary measures, the Constitution ought to cater more for persons with disabilities, when it comes to their voting rights and being able to vote by themselves.
“Presently, there is no provision in our legislation for persons with a disability to vote, really. Representation of the People’s Act, Chapter 103, does not make a provision to enable a person, who is blind or physically incapacitated, to vote, independently,” she noted.
She said that even as the legislation has certain provisions to allow a person, living with a disability, to vote by proxy, she has heard many complaints, over the years, of persons, designated to vote for a disabled person, not sticking with the choice of the disabled person.
“Section 133 of the Representation of the People Act confers a right to vote by proxy for persons who are unable, or likely to be unable to, by reason of blindness or another physical incapacity, to go, in person, to the polling place or if able to go and vote un-aided, this method of voting does not always go well with persons with disabilities, since there is concern that they cannot guarantee that the individual will vote in conformity with instruction of the visually impaired, unless you may have a close relative or friend.
“While GECOM is sympathetic with these complaints, it is necessary to have this legislation implemented,” Singh said, adding that GECOM will ensure steps are taken to ensure no person is disadvantaged.