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Implementation of Commonwealth recommendations responsibility of election stakeholders, pledges continued support once requested

Head of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, Kate Wilkinson.

by Zena Henry

Despite the recognition that recommendations made following General and Regional Election might not be implemented, the Commonwealth Observer Group viewing the country’s 2015 election here says it will continue to fulfill their missions and continue to support the electoral process as long as they are requested.

The foreign-based body held a pre-election press conference at Cara Lodge, Georgetown May 7 to update the activities of the group in relation to next Monday’s polls.

The organisation made it absolutely clear that their duty here in Guyana is to observe the process; giving citizens some sort of confidence that elections will be free, fair and transparent. The body said that its job is to make recommendations about the electoral process after discourse with the relevant groups, but they are not authorized to advise, implement or supervise its implementation.

Kate Wilkinson, head of mission, told reporters that while there is much concern about the current attitude of the campaigners, it has to be understood that, “Our role is quite defined. We don’t have a supervisory role, we are not charged with the implementation of recommendations, be we are here as observers.”

The Commonwealth has a rich track record of support for elections in the country, but Wilkinson was questioned as to her view given that in the 2011 election, for example, the body gave recommendations about state media, the electoral process, the composition of the Elections Commission among others, yet to date none has been implemented and the said complaints are being made.

Wilkinson reiterated that it is not the task of the group to ensure this but rather the stakeholders that would have been engaged in enabling the body to produce their final report. It was mentioned that the group comes to Guyana on request of the government and does its observation. It then engages stakeholders such as the private sector, GECOM among others, “but implementation is with all stakeholders who have the role of putting it in place.”

Outside of this the group said it has taken note of statements being made on the campaign trail that seems to be concerning many persons, even that of prominent observer group the Carter Centre and will add it to their report.

The agency was also asked about “racially charged” statements being made by former President Bharrat Jagdeo who was recently featured as a member of the Commonwealth observer to Sri Lanka during their elections. Wilkinson clarified however that Jagdeo was part of a different observer team from that currently in Guyana and refrained from giving her personal view on his utterances, but stated however that after having some part in politics herself, she is aware of the rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Wilkinson said however that she would like to see the Commonwealth provide the support in giving confidence to the countries where they observe to conduct their own elections which is in the best interest of the respective countries.  She said it is hoped that the group’s presence in Guyana would give the electorate the assurance of a credible election.

She said, “We encourage political parties to take the constructive approach to campaigning in these remaining days before elections and strongly urge parties to respond to the officially complete results in a responsible manner.”

The body is still to determine the polling stations they will observe but noted that they will be at those they believe needs the most attention.