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Commonwealth Foreign Ministers press GECOM to recount votes or gov’t won’t be legitimate

Last Updated on Thursday, 2 April 2020, 18:39 by Writer

Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland.

The Commonwealth Group of Foreign Ministers has called on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to ensure results of last month’s general elections are transparent and credible.

“Ministers called upon the Guyana Elections Commission to immediately fulfill its constitutional mandate and ensure the sovereign right of the people of Guyana to duly elect their Government is respected through a transparent and credible counting and tabulation process,” the Foreign Ministers said in a statement issued Thursday about their meeting held on March 31.

GECOM is due to meet again at 3pm Thursday to decide on whether they would go ahead with the recount or await decisions by the court on whether the High Court can conduct a judicial review of its decision to recount and in so doing scrap the 10 district declarations that have been already made.

The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya. Ministers and representatives of Australia, Barbados, Belize, Ghana, Malaysia, Namibia and the United Kingdom also participated in the video conference.

In their concluding statement, the Foreign Ministers noted that Guyana’s constitution clearly states that sovereignty belongs to the people of Guyana. “In this regard, Ministers noted and welcomed the public undertaking of the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice Claudette Singh (Ret’d), that the votes would be recounted,” they said.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) cautioned that any government emerging out of a flawed election process would not be endorsed by the 53-member Commonwealth organisation of former British colonies. “Ministers strongly iterated that any Government which is sworn in without a credible and fully transparent vote count and tabulation process would lack legitimacy,” they said.

In the past, Guyana had often looked to the Commonwealth for international support in its position that Venezuela’s claim of the mineral, forest and oil-rich Essequibo Region was illegal and that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award was a final, full and perfect settlement of the border between then British Guiana, now Guyana, and Venezuela.

CMAG decided to keep Guyana on their formal agenda and stood ready to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation, explore options and even help Guyana settle its controversy over the election results.

“Ministers affirmed the Commonwealth’s readiness, along with its partners, to provide assistance to ensuring a credible and transparent conclusion to the electoral process in accordance with the will of the people as expressed on 2 March,” they said.

CMAG, established more than 20 years ago in 1995, is the custodian of fundamental political values, including the separation of powers, rule of law and human rights.

The group now assesses concerns such as the unjustified postponement of elections, egregious violations of human rights, the undermining of the judiciary, lack of space for the opposition, and systematic constraints on civil society and the media.

CMAG may agree measures for collective action to deal with persistent or serious violations of Commonwealth values, including suspending membership from the club or even recommending expulsion.