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Top Western diplomats believe elections were credible

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Persaud briefs heads of the American, British and Canadian missions on the Berbice leg of the observation of the 2015 general and regional elections

As of 4:00 pm Monday, May 11 (elections day) the heads of the American, British and Canadian missions in Guyana expressed confidence in the 2015 elections polling process, notwithstanding minor snags.

Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Nicole Giles, UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Gregory Quin, and Charge d Affairs of the United States Embassy in Guyana, Bryan Hunt, today set out on missions around Georgetown, Linden, Essequibo and Berbice to observe various polling stations and to ensure that the process being employed are in accordance with what has been set out by the Guyana Elections Commission.

According to Hunt, each mission has been provided with “information from (GECOM) that lays out how the process is supposed to proceed and we are looking for any anomalies to that process that would influence the outcome of the vote.”

So far, he says, “persons…have been adhering to the plan laid down.”

Following checks around the capital city, Giles, Quin, and Hunt departed the Ogle International Airport at around 9:05 am and travelled by plane to Berbice. They arrived at 10:00 and set out to observe voting at the Crabwood Creek Nursery School, which houses five (5) polling stations, and Skeldon High School, which houses two (2).

The heads of missions observed that in most cases voters were trickling in around that time, the bulk of voters having already cast their ballots much earlier in the morning. Giles was told by one polling agent that the numbers were expected to pick up again later in the afternoon. There was a significant amount of persons waiting to vote at a polling station at the Skeldon High School. Demerara Waves understands that this was due to a combination of high voter turnout and a late start.

Upon arriving in Linden at around 10:40 am, the observers traveled to and observed voting at the Linden Technical Institute, which houses 2 polling stations, and the Linden Foundation Secondary School, which houses 8. Officials at Linden Foundation explained that voting commenced on time (6:00am), but that there were persons lined up at the gate much earlier.

The final destination, before returning to Region four (4), was Essequibo. There, Giles, Quin and Hunt visited several polling stations, including the ones housed in Cottonfield Secondary School.

Summing up the team’s impression following these trips, Hunt said “up to this point I’d say that I am very confident in the credibility of the polls but of course we still have several hours in the afternoon…plus the tallying process ahead of us, so I wouldn’t want to be too premature in my observations.”

Hunt also said that information gathered from today’s observations suggest high voter turnout for the morning period, and he noted that the polling staff at the stations he has visited were expecting a re-surge in the afternoon hours after persons retire from work.

While traveling to these locations the heads of missions were contacted by members of various political parties who had concerns about the goings on at several polling stations.

Upon receiving such concerns, Giles, Hunt and Quin arranged for members of their missions on the ground to verify whether the concerns expressed were cause for worry. “Any concerns that have been expressed we are going to look and see for ourselves what he issue actually is,” Quin said, while adding that “certainly nothing that we have examined has given me any serious cause of concern at this point in time.”

He noted that though, that “there have been some incidents of violence outside of polling stations where people have gotten into fights for the lack of a better word. But as far as anything that has really impacted the integrity of the polling process, nothing.” He furthers said that “it seems to me that they have been dealt with properly by the security forces in the proper manner…and that the polling station is actually open and not closed as some people have said. It’s all looking good to me.”

Quin also said that it does seem that people may have been better advised on the required process if they did not have their identification cards.

Giles agreed with Qin and Hunt on the non-serious nature of concerns expressed, but cautioned against the spreading of rumors. “There is a real risk at this point for rumor mongering, and there is a real threat that can take place to the public of Guyana’s confidence in the process when rumors are being spread without the evidence to back them up. “At this point, one of the things that we are concentrating on is separating fact from fiction, and we would urge the media fraternity of Guyana and the people of Guyana to do the same.”