Advocating for, justifying elections rigging is “epitome of moral bankruptcy” – Pres Ali

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
President Dr Irfaan Ali during his speech at the Flag Raising Ceremony to commemorate Guyana’s 54th Republic Day anniversary

On the occasion of Guyana’s 54th Republic Day anniversary, President Dr Irfaan Ali has stated that there could never be a return of election rigging in the country and anyone who supports this undemocratic act is morally bankrupt.

His remarks come on the heels of People’s National Congress’ (PNC’s) Hamilton Green, a former prime minister of Guyana, last week encouraging the rigging of the upcoming 2025 elections. During an address to a group of persons gathered for the LFS Burnham Foundation Annual Commemorative Symposium 2024 last week, Green suggested that election rigging be used to remove the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government from office.

However, President Ali in his speech to commemorate 54 years since Guyana attained Republican status declared that the era of rigging of elections is closed. He noted that true sovereignty lies in the ability of the Guyanese people being able to freely determine their political destiny and hold their leaders accountable.

“Sovereignty derives from the collective will and consent of the governed who entrust their representatives with authority to rule in their best interests… Any threat to this fundamental right erodes the very foundation of our nationhood but birthing the will of the people through attempts to regulate actions or to justify the rigging of elections in pairs and injures national sovereignty by supporting the democratic principles upon which it is built,” he stated.

Affirming that Guyana will not return to that tainted past of election rigging, the Head of State during Thursday evening’s flag-raising ceremony called out persons who sought to defend Green’s statements.

“Those who advocate for and justify the rigging of elections represent the epitope of moral bankruptcy. Such individuals demonstrate a blatant disregard for the principles of fairness, justice and the sanctity of the electoral process. By condoning election rigging, they corrode the very foundation of democracy and the stability of our republic.”

“Guyana will never return to the era where our Republic was tainted. Guyana’s harrowing experience with dictatorship stands as a stark reminder of the perils of breaking elections. That era is a close chapter in our history. That era is a close chapter in our history,” the Guyanese Leader stated.

Damaging Guyana’s credibility

Meanwhile, President Ali had already put the former PNC Prime Minister on blast earlier this week, stating his election rigging statement could damage the credibility of Guyana.

“Hamilton Green saying… proudly that he believes the [PNC-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change] Opposition should try to rig elections and stay in power. How can you say that in a modern society? That has no place in a modern society. You damage the structure of the society. You damage the credibility of the country,” the Head of State told a gathering of Guyanese diaspora members in St Lucia on Tuesday.

This comes on the heels of the PPP/C Government having to toil aggressively after taking office in 2020 to repair Guyana’s reputation on the global scene after the five-month political impasse as a result of blatant efforts by the then PNC-led Coalition Administration to rig the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.

According to Ali, “The five months that we went through, the greatest damage was not done to individuals. The greatest damage was done to the country because we had to work through back [with] every single country to bring back the credibility of [Guyana], to convince people that we are a free democratic society where the rule of law applies. And it’s not fair for the country.”

Free pass

Green had told the gathering of mainly PNC supporters that he had engaged another group and mentioned the rigging of elections to get the PPP out of government.

The symposium was organised to commemorate the 101st birth anniversary of Forbes Burnham – a former PNC leader and President of Guyana, whose legacy is largely attributed to his dictatorship-style leadership and blatant rigging of several elections. This started after Burnham won the 1964 elections at which time, Green was the General Secretary of the PNC.

“…It was Burnham’s wisdom which got him into office in 1964. I was General Secretary at the critical time. And if, as I told one of the groups I met [Friday] morning, if they say he rigged elections, I say we should keep rigging to save us from these devils, these bastards, these demons that we have,” Green declared during the event that was live-streamed on Facebook.

During a press conference on Thursday, Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, who is also the PNC Leader, along with other party Executives essentially defended Green, saying his statement was taken out of context.

But General Secretary of the ruling PPP/C, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, called out Norton for making excuses for Green’s statements.

Jagdeo, who is also the Vice President of Guyana, also criticised civil society bodies in Guyana on their deafening silence on the “outrageous statement” made by Green.

“Here is a former prime minister of this country… [saying] they must rig the elections – the PNC… This is at a PNC conference and nobody challenged him there. In this country, where is the outrage there in civil society… This is a major bit of news and it just went out the window because it’s done by the PNC. They always get a free pass on their failed economic policy, their failed projects, the massive corruption that they engaged in, their lack of vision, their outrageous statements, their racism. They always get a free pass in this country from the media and from civil society. If you thought that was just an aberration and an outlier statement, it is not so. It is core PNC value,” the PPP/C GS posited.