Hearing into the second injunction arising from the stalled elections which were held in Guyana on March 2 takes place today, in the midst of a growing crisis over what has not been taking place there. Two former high profile public administration figures have come out, within days of each other last week, calling on the president to come out from under the shadows of people with bad intentions and let the court-ordered recount of votes proceed.
All the foreign election observer missions have abandoned their assignments, each one recognising that the process is being stymied by interests inimical to the production of results consistent with the will of the Guyanese people. They have all—including the Caricom team—said so in clear terms.
The stakes are exceedingly high, with President Granger’s APNU+AFC coalition desperately seeking to continue in power. The APNU+AFC ran on a campaign of having begun a delivery process aimed at transforming the society with infrastructure and human development programmes never attempted before. With projected hydrocarbon revenues in the region of US$2.1 billion a year for at least the next 20 years, the government promised a whole lot, its manifesto matching, almost promise for promise, that of the contending PPP/Civic.
It’s “Achievement Report” listed the creation of 15,000 new jobs, and the signing of over 200 investment agreements in areas such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, ICT, energy and mining. It claimed crime had fallen by 30 per cent, including murder, armed robbery and rape; 100,000 more persons gained access to clean drinking water for the first time; 1,800 new teachers were trained; over 350 kilometres of road were either built, rehabilitated or maintained; 24-hour lab blood testing services were extended to all hospitals; a new drugs procurement system was established, ensuring that the availability of essential medicines increased from 60 per cent to 95 per cent.
Regarding a plan to deliver “a stronger Georgetown,” its campaign promise proclaimed that “we have made a start, but we need your help to finish the job and build a better future for Georgetown.”
In fact, the capital, once proudly known as the “Garden City” of the Caribbean, has remained in dire need of revitalisation and restoration for decades, and with sanitation needs outstanding, among other priorities left untended because of an absence of funding.
At the party’s final rally on March 29, President Granger spoke of plans to continue the massive infrastructure programme his administration had started. This involves the construction of bridges linking one part of the country to another, which have been separated by the wide expanse of rivers dividing one of its ten regions from another. He also spoke of a plan to provide every single mother with a roof over her head, and for transportation for their children to and from school, for communications links that would facilitate easier national radio and television transmission across the country.
The PPP/C’s plans included the following: tax reduction for Guyanese businesses and individuals, training and support for thousands of citizens at every level; support of strong local content for Guyanese, with legislative safeguards; involving civil society in a central role in monitoring compliance and accountability; establishing a sovereign wealth fund, insulated from political interference; renewal of contract agreements for better administration and renegotiation (the party argued during the campaign that because of weak negotiators, the government forfeited more than US$35 billion, in its exploration and production contract agreements with ExxonMobil); it promised to uphold the “Santiago Principles” on transparency and accountability, regarding the extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
On social programmes, both parties promised more on women’s empowerment, the APNU+AFC targeting expanded early childhood day care centres and nurseries “to help women fulfil their professional aspirations.” The PPP/C made similar pronouncements. It also promised removal of VAT on electricity, water and food, reduction of taxes and removal of age restrictions on vehicles, these themselves part of a promise to reverse more than 200 taxes and fees, and 50,000 low income house lots.
It railed against what it viewed as the absence of opportunities for young people in the government’s programme. These included the imposition of a 2 a.m. curfew in the capital city. It proposed measures to address them.
The injunction filed on March 6 against attempts to declare the election in favour of the APNU+AFC provided what looked like a window of hope for the society. But the avenue it opened for the ventilation of frustration and the dissipation of anger, hostility and violence among the Guyanese people, was effectively closed with the later injunction filed on March 17. It called on the court to halt that process, and to ignore the agreement signed by the President and the Leader of the Oppositon, which allowed for its conduct. The current atmosphere signals a return to a dark period in the country’s not-so-distant past.