Dear Editor,The GECOM Secretariat, led by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, has provided a timeline for elections in late March 2020, more than a year after the deadline for elections expired and more than 15 months after a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) ended the life of the Government. The timeline is offensive to the Constitution and contemptuous of the Judiciary which has ordered that elections must be held at the earliest possible time. Instead, GECOM provides a timeline for election as late as possible. GECOM’s proposed timeline further violates the Constitution which required elections before March 21, 2019, more than 6 months ago, after the NCM was passed in Parliament on December 21, 2018. A few days after the NCM, on December 27, GECOM assured the nation it was ready to conduct elections, in accordance with its constitutional mandate. But GECOM became beholden to and a creature of APNU/AFC, doing the bidding of the Government in every way possible to prevent elections. The March 2020 proposal exposes again the conspiracy between Lowenfield, his staff and APNU/AFC, mocking the Constitution and the Judiciary and trampling democracy.Even the most ardent anti-PPP critic cannot deny anymore that GECOM is compromised by APNU/AFC to do its dirty job of preventing elections. From the moment the NCM was passed on December 21, GECOM became a co-conspirator with APNU/AFC to breach the Constitution, delaying elections for as long as possible. With Justice James Patterson, a creature of the PNC and David Granger, at the helm before July 29, the Secretariat was transformed into an APNU/AFC frontline hatchet gang, taking orders from Congress Place, conspiring in every way whatsoever to administratively block the elections. Even with Justice Patterson’s forced exit with the CCJ’s ruling his appointment was illegal, the GECOM Secretariat has continued virtually unimpeded to create as many roadblocks as possible to prevent the elections.The new Chair, Justice Claudette Singh, has been in place now for almost six weeks. Her decision to terminate the House-to-House Registration on August 31 provided a glimmer of hope that GECOM’s integrity and independence would be restored. But that fleeting moment of good sense has not deterred the GECOM Secretariat from continuing its conspiracy with APNU/AFC to delay elections. GECOM has played its puppet role masterfully.Justice Claudette Singh has built a sterling career and a reputation. She has shown she can steer GECOM to function as it was intended, with integrity, fairness, independence, at all times in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Justice Singh promised she will act only in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Her action in terminating HTH was not in favour of or against any political party; it was based on the law and on the requirement for holding of elections at the earliest possible time. But the decision is quickly becoming meaningless since the GECOM Secretariat is ensuring the timeline is still in the far distance, totally abrogating the orders of the court and continuing the reckless violation of the Constitution. Justice Singh must put a stop to this recklessness.Given Guyana’s experience since December 21, 2018, there was always an expectation Lowenfield and his staff will insist on a timeline designed for the latest possible date for elections, instead of the earliest possible time. There are many experienced persons who could identify the obvious inflation of time. Justice Singh should seek advice from those who have conducted elections in the past. Lowenfield was personally recruited to GECOM by Joe Singh, a former Chair of GECOM and worked under Steve Surujbally, the most recent former Chair of GECOM, Patterson being discounted because he was illegal. Both these former Chairs have had extensive experience. In addition, Rudy Collins served as the first Chairman of GECOM under the Carter formula. There are former Chief and Deputy Elections Officers. There are experienced persons outside of the political realm, like Lawrence Latchmansingh. Among these persons, Justice Singh can find an independent team to analyse Lowenfield’s proposal to find the earliest possible date for elections.Already we know one way to cut the time Lowenfield proposed. The merging of the recent HTH data with the existing NRR is unnecessary. In any case, it is also illegal since the recent HTH data was compiled without the scrutiny of the PPP, a fatal fault. With Justice Singh’s decision to end HTH on August 31, everyone now accepts Claims and Objections provide the legal remedy to add unregistered persons and to remove any name which is successfully objected to. This would mean the cross-matching of and printing of new ID cards for only several thousands of new registrants, not the 370,000 Lowenfield wants. In any case, the merging would require cross-matching with the entire NRR, an impossible feat with the time limits available. Should Justice Singh seek advice from those who previously conducted elections, she would find that many of the sequential steps Lowenfield identified can be done concurrently and in less time. In fact, the Lowenfield plan for March 2020 can be deflated for elections as soon as November 2019. Justice Singh must end the conspiracy now.Sincerely,Dr Leslie Ramsammy
Azerbaijan recently organised a 3-city event titled ‘Discover Azerbaijan Roadshow’ in Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad in September to educate the Indian market to travel to the South Caucasus region. Sachin Nene, Regional General Manager- Air Arabia, India, said, “Azerbaijan is relatively new to Indians as a tourist destination. Through these roadshows, our efforts have been centred towards reaching out to the best performing travel agents and tour operators across three cities and grow their knowledge about Azerbaijan. The destination needs a lot of promotional efforts like this to get itself acquainted with the Indian travel trade fraternity and thereby witness the good number of Indian tourist.” Ildirim Ganbarov, Business Development Manager, Pasha Travels, said, “Exhibitors from Azerbaijan focused on targeting not only the MICE traveller segment but also the leisure segment though MICE have been till now the best performing sectors from India. The exhibitors present at the roadshow not only showcased their product offerings in Baku but also exhibited other destinations like Shabran, Guba, Shahdag, Shamakha, Qabala, Sheki, Ganja, Lankaran, Nakhichevan and Naftalan.” The Indian market has been performing significantly well for Air Arabia as the airline recorded 95% passenger from this market across all 13 Indian cities from where the airline operates. Between April and August this year Air Arabia recorded 850 Indian passengers. Nene said that for Air Arabia, 80% of the Indian travellers to Azerbaijan are from the MICE segment. These travellers also prefer to add sightseeing and nightlife in their itinerary when visiting Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan Tourism Authorities are working towards engagement with members of the travel trade and media through FAM trips and is also looking at attracting the film producers to the destination. For 94 nationalities including India e-visa is issued which is valid for 90 days. “Baku has a lot to offer to Indians in terms of MICE and leisure. We are concentrating our efforts on promoting destinations in Azerbaijan as well but our prime focus remains on Baku. We are working towards tie-ups with Cox & Kings, SOTC, Thomas Cook, etc., to target the leisure traveller segment from the Indian market next year. India is an emerging market for Azerbaijan and we are hopeful that our promotional efforts will help us establish Azerbaijan as a prominent destination for the Indian travellers,” Nene concluded. Till now word of mouth publicity helped Air Arabia to record the good number of passengers from the Indian market, with this roadshow it is expected to attract more Indian passengers to visit Azerbaijan.