The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Wednesday accused government of spending thousands of United States (US) dollars of taxpayers’ money to pay an American lobbying firm to defend A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) against claims of electoral process, but a top government official fired back, saying that government has a legitimate right to defend Guyana’s image.
In a document filed under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, the Washington DC. based JJ&B, LLC, said “we will be contacting officials of the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Government in order to seek resolution of disputes regarding Guyana’s recent presidential election, and in order to improve relations between Guyana and the United States. We also will be providing information to news media.”
The Guyana government’s decision to hire JJ&B was done amidst persistently intense calls by the US, Britain, Canada, the Carter Centre, Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Commonwealth for Guyanese authorities to ensure a government is not sworn in based on non- credible election results or the country could face “consequences” including “isolation.”
Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Retired Lt. Col. Joseph Harmon said the David Granger-led administration would not stand idly by and allow its image and that of Guyana to be misrepresented by the PPP and its US-headquartered lobbyist, Mercury Public Affairs.
“As a government we have a duty to ensure our country is not portrayed as the PPP was trying to do. We are an independent democratic country and our government respect the Constitution, live by the rule of law and abide by the decisions of our courts,” he told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News.
Recalling that he had said government would have taken steps to deal with the PPP’s “false narrative” and have Guyana’s case presented, the Director-General contended that government has a legitimate right to defend itself and the interest of the country.
The PPP accused the administration of violating the Procurement Act by spending huge sums of money to pay the lobbying firm and individuals to spread misleading information on behalf of APNU+AFC “so that they can continue to hold on to power illegally and in defiance of the Constitution and every democratic principle known to the free world.”
“The use of public funds to pay for the promotion of a party brief is not only in violation of the Procurement Act, but constitutes a fraud under the ordinary criminal laws of the country. The retained USA firm and its principals, who assisted in the preparation of this APNU/AFC Dossier may, therefore, be guilty of fraudulently misrepresenting to the USA Government that their client is the Government of Guyana when in fact, it is a political party,” the PPP said.
But, Harmon accused the PPP of attempting to distract Guyanese. “They can argue red herrings The reality is that their false narrative is being corrected,” he said. He disputed the PPP’s claims that the Guyana government has so far paid US$72,000 to JJ&B.
Director-General Harmon is named as the contact person at the Ministry of the Presidency who would be liaising with JJ&B with which the contract took effect on 26th March, 2020.
The PPP, however, assailed government for finding much needed funds to pay JJ&B while claiming that they had little cash to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. The opposition party said APNU+AFC’s aim of hiring the lobbying firm was to defend itself against “rank fraud” concerning the declaration of election results for Region Four.
GECOM up to Wednesday appeared set to finalise arrangements for the start of a national recount of the votes cast in the March 2, 2020 polls.