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Business, religious, labour petition Inter-American Human Rights Commission to avert “political disaster” in Guyana

Last Updated on Saturday, 4 April 2020, 13:26 by Writer

Twenty-five mainly private sector organisations have petitioned the United States (US)-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to pressure Guyanese authorities to recount votes in last month’s general elections under international supervision.

“In all these circumstances, we urge you, Executive Secretary, to bring this petition urgently to the attention of the Commission to consider the situation in Guyana and to take action that would cause the general elections to be tabulated fairly and under international supervision,” they said.

The organisations petitioned the IACHR on March 31 but since then the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) decided to recount the ballots under its own supervision in keeping with Guyana’s constitution rather than the section of the Representation of the People Act that deals with voting.

The private sector organisations in Georgetown, Linden Berbice and Essequibo as well as trade unions and religious organisations also told the IACHR that if the votes were not properly accounted for, Guyana could be engulfed by a major political crisis. “We fear that Guyana is on the brink of a political disaster with very grave consequences including social upheaval. We plead for the swift assistance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to act to avert a situation that could lead to a humanitarian crisis,” the petition dispatched to the organisation states.

The Private Sector Commission’s Economic Analyst, Joel Bhagwandin told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News that so far the IACHR has not responded to the petition. “No, we did not get a specific response from that one as yet,” he said. He added that the Organisation of American States (OAS) has responded, reiterating statements they have already expressed.

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Gerry Gouveia, who signed the petition on behalf of the organisations, highlighted that free and fair elections is a critical aspect of the Western Hemispheric inter-governmental system. “We, the undersigned representing a wide cross section of civil society and private sector organizations in Guyana, are committed to maintain democracy and the rule of law, including free and fair elections and the entitlement of all citizens to human and political rights free of discrimination of any kind. We are also strong supporters of the principles and values established in the Charter of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” said Gouveia.

Notably, the Federation of Independent Trades Unions of Guyana (FITUG), which is made up of pro-People’s Progressive Party labour unions, is a petitioner but the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) which has backed the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance (APNU+AFC) on a range of issues, is not listed.

While GECOM has decided to conduct the national recount from Regions 1 to 10, that body has decided to await a Guyana Court of Appeal decision on whether the High Court can legally hear a request for a judicial review of the commission’s decision to recount and set aside the 10 regional/district declarations.

In total, those declarations show that APNU+AFC has won the election, but the PPP has said its copies of Statements of Poll prove that is victorious.

The international community, including the OAS and the Commonwealth, have called for the votes to be properly tabulated so that the will of Guyanese on who should govern them is reflected.

The petitioners are Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Bartica Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Berbice Chamber of Commerce,Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Guyana Region 3 Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Linden Chamber of Commerce, Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Air Craft Owners Association of Guyana, Forest Products Association of Guyana, Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association Inc; Guycraft Producers Association, Guyana Association of Bankers, Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association, Guyana Association of Private Security Organisation, Institute of Private Enterprise and Development, National Air Transport Association, National Aquaculture Association of Guyana, Shipping Association of Guyana, The Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana, Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association, The Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry Ltd, Muslim Youth Organization of Guyana, Inter-Religious Organisation of Guyana and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana.

Gouveia said, “the values, principles and rights set out in the Charter of the OAS and the Inter-American Democratic Charter have never been more pertinent and relevant to Guyana which is teetering on the brink of their abandonment with grave consequences for the country.”