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APNU coalition partner, Justice For All Party, calls for national recount

Leader of the Justice for All Party, Chandra Narine Sharma speaking with President David Granger.

The Leader and General Secretary of the Justice For All Party (JFAP) on Thursday called for a total national recount of the votes cast in the March 2, 2020 general elections, even as the High Court prepares to hear arguments on an injunction that blocked such a Caribbean Community (Caricom)-supervised exercise.

JFAP is one of the parties under the umbrella of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

JFAP Leader, Chandra Narine Sharma and General Secretary Savitrie Sharma issued the call in a statement, saying that “we believe in the will of the people – irrespective of which party wins.”

“We believe that the recounting process should be permitted and ALL ballots should be immediately recounted in an expeditious and transparent manner. Any party that wins through a transparent process will have our support,” the Sharmas said.

The Leader and the General Secretary said they were uncertain of the “party dynamics at this time” but they appealed to President David Granger to “do the right thing and allow the recounting process to be immediately completed to honour the will of the people of Guyana.”

But, JFAP Executive Member, Jeff Sankies said he was not consulted before the statement was issued and as such he regards it as a “personal” position of the Sharmas. “I did not get on to CN (Sharma) but I told his wife that I regard it as a personal statement,” Sankies told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News.

Sankies said the last executive meeting agreed that JFAP would await the High Court’s decision and actions by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). High Court Judge, Franklyn Holder is Friday expected to hear arguments by APNU candidate, Ulita Munroe’s lawyers and lawyers for the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on whether to continue blocking the recount.

With Jinnah Rahaman not attending executive meetings and Jaipaul Sharma, CN’s son, having resigned from JFAP and joined the PNCR, the executive is now made up of CN Sharma, Savitrie Sharma and Sankies.

Eminent international statesman, Sir Shridath Ramphal has also added his voice to calls for a Caricom-supervised recount of the votes, saying that that “wholly legitimate” process needs to be embraced. “What is required now is for all to place the interest of the nation above other narrow considerations that could mar the country’s prospects and retard the strides that the people of Guyana have made collectively,” Sir Shridath said.

The Commonwealth Election Observer Mission earlier this week detailed a series of irregularities concerning the tabulation of the votes cast in Region Four.

  • The repeated cessation of the tabulation process for a variety of irregular reasons.
  • The Group did not observe any material or substantive impediments inside the tabulation room, which might have prevented the resumption of the tabulation process. It is the Group’s clear view that robust exchanges between political party agents in the room only occurred when the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) repeatedly halted the tabulation process.
  • The unlawful declaration made by Mr Mingo on 5 March at about 2pm, despite the tabulation process being halted.
  • The unlawful 5 March declaration of Mr Mingo was undertaken under heavy police guard; and his departure from the tabulation centre was guided and guarded by six police officers.
  • The continued failure of the Returning Officer, Mr Mingo, to comply with the 11 and 13 March orders and judgements of the Acting Chief Justice. On 13 March, the Chief Justice made it patently clear that actual statements of poll should be shown to entitled parties present. For the avoidance of doubt, the Acting Chief Justice demonstrated herself how this should be done and enquired “what was the difficulty in doing so?” during the contempt of court proceedings.
  • However, on resuming the tabulation after leaving the Court on 13 March, Mr Mingo refused all requests from those entitled to be present to view the actual statements of poll and did not display the spreadsheet being populated. This compromised the process of ascertaining the credibility of the statements of poll relied on by Mr Mingo to tabulate the results, and, it was impossible for party agents and those entitled to be present to observe that the numbers being called out were being accurately entered on the spreadsheet.
  • In some cases, the tabulation totals announced by Mr Mingo on 13 March reflected more voters than were entered on the list of eligible electors for certain polling stations.
  • At no point did the leadership of the Guyana Elections Commission halt or rectify these blatant instances of disregard for the rule of law and electoral ethics, despite its vested authority to independently ensure credible elections.