Despite the constitutionally entrenched independent office of the Supervisor of Elections via the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO), Prime Minister Dr Keith Claudius Mitchell seems to be convinced and to have proven that the government of the day can have all the interest it wishes to have in the electoral process. However the extent to which the sentiment of Mitchell could be a reality depends emphatically on whether or not the PEO is weak and / or is wicked in its operations at any point in time, based on the repute and resolve of the Governor-General’s appointed officials. That is, the PEO may well be an accomplice against the fundamentals, the principles and the gains of democracy, and particularly against the efforts, the expectations and the entitlement of the sovereign people of Grenada for free and fair elections. In fact; the showing of the PEO on Friday, October 16, 2020, on the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) has been instructive in realizing whether or not it is conniving or forthright, and so putting the record straight on its status, credibility, motivation and performance.
The senior officials of the PEO appeared on the GBN’s “To The Point” current affairs programme Mr Elvis Morain – Supervisor of Elections, Mr Ferdinand Phillip – Voter and Civic Registration (‘Education’) Officer and Mr Michael Millette – System Administrator (‘Computer’). Significantly; the utterances of the officials again set the stage or open the opportunity for the voting public to contact, demand and pester, as well as to hold accountable, the PEO for attending to their registration and voting affairs, especially regarding the voter identification cards. Moreover; this latest ‘wide media’ appearance provides justifications for a forensic investigation of the PEO; recall the previous article “Open Appeal to Grenada’s Governor-General On The Parliamentary Elections Office”. In fact; the showing of PEO also provides evidence that chaos looms on the upcoming elections, unless there is drastic improvements in its attitude and action, as the previously internet-circulated article “Grenada’s Voting Process Setting For More Controversies and Contempt” points to. Sadly; a long battle for implementing genuine electoral reforms is clear.
This two-part article as captioned would attempt to bring a wider perspective for better understanding on some of the crucial issues raised by the PEO on the GBN’s programme. Those issues relate to the registration of voters and the requirements for voting, the integrity and security of the Computerised Voter Registration System, and the merit of the concerns and recommendations by the overseas Observer Elections Missions. Indeed the PEO needs to be challenged continually and unrelentingly by patriotic persons, especially with the view to have the judgement-call on whether or not it is conniving or forthright in its functions, associations and pronouncements.
Although maintaining that criticisms to strengthen the whole electoral process are invited, it appears that the main goal of the PEO’s representatives on the programme was to ridicule, relegate and reprimand the ‘independent voices’ which tend to advocate on behalf of the local people on electoral, democratic and constitutional issues. Those civil bastions have been condemned vigorously as fake paragons of truth and who are trying to create a kind of environment for whatever the purpose concerning the doings and procedures of the PEO. The representatives hint at persons who put to the public ‘part and out of context information as if to mislead’ after having engagements with the PEO. If ‘displeasure and difficulty’ is with the various statements disseminated in print to the general public by the Grouping of Civil Society Organisations, such as most recent (https://conceptionnewsnetwork.com/cso-statement-re-meeting-with-the-parliamentary-elections-office/), then it would be very appropriate for the PEO, as a responsible national institution, to produce its accurate and transparent position, especially identifying the discrepancies on the issues concluded at the engagements.
It is interesting how the official representatives of the PEO bolster their authority and certainty with scripture, when on the media presentation, by citing “He that is first in his own cause seems just or seems right, but then another man comes and searches him out or exposes him” (Proverbs 18 : 17). However they failed to substantiate the application and direction of this Bible text by also making reference to the results of the judicial inquiry on claims, by concerned individuals, interest groups and the main opposing political party, of voter padding during the March 2018 elections, which the PEO had dismissed with appeals for good sense to avoid generating ill feelings among voters. PEO needs to be conscious and cautious that, by embarking on a crusade to apparently intimidate and silent certain citizens, it is not inflicting embarrassment and indictment onto itself.
The PEO needs to be frank, precise and clear as to whether or not it is in collaboration with the political directorate in registering voters for elections. Is there any version of linkage agreement or software compatibility between the website of the PEO and that of the National Portal? How could the PEO reconcile the requirements and procedures for registering voters, which are given on both websites (https://www.gov.gd/peo/registration and http://www.peogrenada.org/)? How willing, resolved and thorough would the PEO be, in condemning and correcting any ‘part and out of context information as if to mislead’ pertinent to voting at elections, which may be contained on the government’s website? Critically too; the general public, including individuals of the Citizenship By Investment programme, needs to know whether or not it is constitutionally correct to be registered online as a voter, and who is liable for any crime if this happens.
How meaningful are the open engagements of the PEO with persons who are integral to the electoral process? Does the PEO use the opportunity to disclose pertinent initiatives and undertakings and to clarify all uneasiness and speculations of the public; or would it be a breach of confidentiality and not in the interest of the government of the day to raise certain issues that impacts on elections? More particularly; are there any considerations, discussions and / or execution on the digitizing and preserving in electronic format the voter registration records, consistent with the efforts of foreign agencies such as the World Bank project in support of the Digital Government for Resilience (DG4R) (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/loans-credits/2019/08/29/grenada-digital-government-for-resilience-project and https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/project-detail/P167588?lang=en) and the Electronic Government Regional Integration Project (EGRIP) (https://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2016/09/21/supporting-egovernment-systems-in-the-caribbean)?
Is it of integrity to be ‘technically expedient’ at the gross expense to genuine stakeholders and the sovereign people by presenting half-truths and semantics, as well as by relying on loopholes and limitations of legal provisions? There seems to be no remorse and apology by the PEO for also misinforming the electorate on the importance of using the voter identification (ID) cards during the March 2018 election, but that now a pertinent strategy seems to be plotting for similar intention. Isn’t the Representation of the People Act (RPA) speak about replacing voter identification cards and about the causes and conditions for replacing them? What form of education and explanation then is the PEO giving the people when declaring that it is now engaging on a process of replacing the expired voter ID card and that what is being done is not really a “reissuance but a replacement”; but when section 24 of the RPA states that “Where a person who has been issued a voter identification card . . . . loses that card, or the card is defaced, or destroyed, he may apply to the Supervisor of Elections for that card to be replaced, and the Supervisor of Elections may issue a voter identification card replacing the same . . . .”?
Concerning the specific use of statutory Form No. 34 of RPA amended (Act 13 of 2018), The Registration of Electors Rules …. Application For Re-issuance Of Voter Identification Card, what lessons are the PEO transmitting and the practices it is encouraging the public? Is it proper and justifiable on administrative discretion to cause to be modified and falsified an official government document, and / or to use it inappropriately and incompletely; contrary to its designed purpose? Could this mean misconduct and corruption, as well as the abuse of public property, inconsistent with government’s rules on stores? Moreover; would the defence by the PEO that this special Form is used just to capture some information for replacing the voter’s card stand in a court of law, especially when professional and prudent options for realizing the goal and outcome are available?
How unsound and uncalled for to speculate as to whether or not the PEO is conniving or forthright, or as to ascertain whether or not it is ignorant or arrogant, in the noble task of advancing democracy in Grenada? It is outrageous when valid questions and concerns are not addressed properly, and so bringing PEO into disrepute.
By J K Roberts, Sound Public Policies Advocate