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Caricom leaders say “every vote must count” in Guyana’s elections; calls on Returning Officer to abide by High Court ruling

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2020, 16:56 by Writer

Caricom Chairman, Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley flanked by (left to right) Caricom Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque, the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; the Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell; the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves.

A team of Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders left Guyana Thursday after attempting to mediate in a dispute over the results for the March 2, 2020 general elections, saying that “every vote must count.”

“Any attempt to stall the process or any attempt to obfuscate the process is one that runs against the spirit of the Chief Justice’s judgement and it is against this background that we pray that even though a statute puts power in the hands of a Returning Officer that that Returning Officer will understand that he holds in his hands the future and stability of Guyana as we go forward because every vote must be made to count,” Caricom Chairman, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley told reporters. She added that process must appear to be so not only in the presence of observers but also in the presence of all parties that contested the election because everyone has a right to determine whether the process was fair and whether they need to ask for a recount.

Mottley hoped that the Returning Officer would abide by the Chief Justice of Guyana, Roxane George-Wiltshire’s “absolutely clear” ruling that the he would either continue or start anew reconciliation of the Statements of Poll. “We hope and pray that there will be an adherence to not just the law of the judgement to the spirit of the judgement because she was very clear in the last three paragraphs of her judgment as to what she expects in the spirit and the principle and a transparent process that is critical if this country is to go forward,” she said.

Mottley and her colleague prime ministers did not entertain questions from the media after her remarks at the Marriott Hotel shortly before leaving for the airport.

Mottley said one of their efforts included a late-night joint meeting between President David Granger and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo. She said both sides committed to abiding by the laws and constitution of Guyana as well as a free, fair and transparent process.

Well-placed sources said the regional leaders seemed quite upset that, while the Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo is in charge of making the rules for reconciliation and declaration of results, he decided to use a spreadsheet instead of Statements of Poll.

Mottley said it is for the political leaders to demonstrate the political will for dialogue to work. “While we can create the space for them to speak, they have to have the will for this to work. There is no doubt in our minds that there is at stake far more than who will be the President of Guyana. What is at stake is also the lives and stability of the people of Guyana,” said the Caricom Chairman.

The Caricom Chairman did not rule out further efforts by the regional integration movement to help resolve and defuse the political tension if “all under” President Granger and Jagdeo take the necessary actions. “Failing that, we believe that we will have to keep engaged. This is not a single event. This is a process and we are cognisant that this process didn’t get here overnight and it is not going to necessarily miraculously change overnight but at this point – the most important thing, the most important thing – even as we fight this Corona 19 virus is for the people of Guyana to remain calm, to remain patient and to allow us to help both sides and their supporters that it is only through a transparent and open process that we can go forward,” she said.

Accompanying her were the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; the Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell; the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves.

The Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), Claudette Singh was later Thursday expected to obtain and read the High Court’s decision before deciding on the way forward for the reconciliation and declaration process for the Region Four results which are holding up the national declaration and ultimately the swearing-in of a new President.

The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has since indicated that it would file contempt of court proceedings against the Returning Officer whom the High Court has said has the right to determine the method to be used for tabulation of votes.

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