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GECOM’s Coalition-backed commissioners stayed away from meeting Carter Center officials

Minister of State and General Secretary of A Partnership of National Unity (APNU), Mr. Joseph Harmon, Minister of Social Protection and General Secretary of the People’s National Congress (PNC), Ms. Amna Ally and Political Advisor, Dr. Mark Kirton, yesterday, met with Carter Center representatives Associate Director, Ms. Brett Lacy and Legal and Electoral Advisor Ms. Anne Marlborough at the Ministry of the Presidency.

The Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) governing Coalition-nominated commissioners stayed away from a meeting of a fact-finding mission from the Carter Center, on the grounds that they first wanted to ensure government had approved of that non-governmental organisation’s visit to the country.

Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander argued that there was precedence even in the case of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an American government agency, working in Guyana’s electoral arena. “My position is that this is an external body. It’s not even a government. It’s a private NGO and private NGOs just can’t turn up and talk to anybody when they feel like. This country has “a sovereign” and it is the sovereign who decides how you deal with external forces,” he said.

Alexander recalled leaving the last GECOM meeting that the Commission was expected to have sought clarification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about whether “the government was disposed to its engagement with the Carter Center”.

Alexander said he and other commissioners, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman, did not attend the meeting because they did not receive any clarity. Alexander said the two-member Carter Center team arrived in Guyana and the meeting was held without informing them. “Apparently, something went awry and the meeting was arranged and there was no communication… whatsoever until yesterday [Monday] morning… The Chairman has apologised and taken responsibility for not having communicated with us before,” he said.

GECOM governing Coalition-nominated Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Desmond Trotman and Charles Corbin speaking with the media outside GECOM’s headquarters after a statutory meeting.

“It is only in the context of government being disposed that GECOM gets involved,” he said, adding that the law states only the government could decide on foreign observer missions coming to Guyana.

The Carter Center team met with GECOM Chairman James Patterson and the opposition PPP-nominated commissioners Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn. The team also met with a delegation of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) headed by General Secretary of APNU and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

That meeting was held at the Ministry of the Presidency.