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Govt denounces CARICOM vote recount, US warns of stiffer sanctions

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 July 2020, 21:06 by Denis Chabrol

The Ministry of the Presidency.

Guyana’s caretaker David Granger-led administration on Tuesday for the first time publicly denounced the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) national vote recount report, during its participation in a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Karen Cummings, in reacting to remarks by the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) prime ministerial candidate, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips, said the CARICOM recount did not reflect the overall scrutiny of the 2,339 boxes of ballots. “In our estimation, it was not a representative sample and at the end of it all, they said it is reasonably credible. Is either something is credible or it’s not credible… The 18 percent is not a representative sample… and so it’s really unfair to make such a general..It’s a fallacy, a hasty generalisation of a process which they haven’t concluded,” she said.

The CARICOM team of scrutineers said, despite some reservations, the votes counted could be used to declare the results as they reflected the will of Guyanese.

Before Tuesday’s pronouncement at the OAS, the coalition had issued its own statement on the recount but not as the Guyana government.

Even as Attorney General, Basil Williams relied on the court system to settle the almost five-month long controversy over the undeclared results of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections, he also told the OAS body that the recount showed glaring irregularities. Stating that APNU+AFC believed that “we won the elections” in the same way as the PPP, he explained that the Chief Elections Officer applied the credibility aspect of the vote recount order and removed those questionable votes in one of his reports to the Elections Commission. Mr. Williams said the recount uncovered widespread corruption such as no statutory documents to validate the votes in the ballot boxes including 41 boxes in one of the 10 electoral districts. “The issue, there, was not ballots being in the box but the circumstances attending how they got into the box,” he said.

Brigadier Phillips accused the Guyana government of making “vile statements”  about CARICOM leaders and other officials of regional ad hemispheric organisations while 18 months on without Guyana having a functioning Parliament. He said that situation persists while the international community continues to embrace the CARICOM-scrutinised recount of the votes that were cast on March 2, 2020. “Mr. Chairman, the recount results are completely acceptable. The actual count of the vote was indeed transparent and non other than the President of Guyana is on record as saying that CARICOM is the most legitimate interlocutor on the situation in Guyana,” he said. The PPP prime ministerial called on APNU+AFC to respect rules, laws international norms and values of the OAS and concede defeat.

“Notwithstanding the declaration, which we all await, I wish to state that the declaration is just a formality because the results of the recount is a public document for the entire world to  see and to know,” he said. Of the 460,000 valid votes cast, he said 233,000 were won by the PPP and 217,000 by APNU+AFC.

While the Foreign Minister and the Attorney General appealed for patience to allow the court process to resolve the controversy over the election results, the United States Deputy Permanent Representative to the OAS, Bradley A. Freden traced Guyana’s political crisis to the passage of the PPP-sponsored no-confidence motion in 2018, saying that “ushered in a period of political paralysis at a time when Guyanese leaders of all backgrounds could have come together to lay the foundation for a brighter , more prosperous future.”

Mr. Freden said international observers noted “flagrant tabulation irregularities and unanimously agreed that there was no credible result” of the general elections. He noted that efforts to have a transparent internationally supervised account were stymied in Guyana’s court system and the Carter Center and the International Republican Institute were barred from returning to observe the recount.

The US official at the OAS Permanent Council stopped short of accusing the Granger administration of behaving in an undemocratic manner by clinging on to power against the will of the electorate. “The only democratic solution for Guyana at this time is to respect the results of the national recount. This is fully in keeping with Guyana’s commitments under the (Inter-American) Democratic Charter. In democracies, leaders step aside when they are voted out of office. That speaks to the importance and strength of institutions, not to individuals and to the power of the people, not those who usurp their power,” he said.

Noting that American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has announced visa sanctions after months of warnings. Mr. Freden said if the stalemate continues APNU would have to make the tough choice of Guyana becoming a pariah state on which tougher sanctions would be imposed.

CARICOM Representative to the OAS, Lou-Anne Gaylene Gilchrist assured that the regional organisation has not been interfering in the internal affairs of Guyana because the country is a party to the 1977 Charter of Civil Society that commits member states to respect for democracy and the periodic holding of free elections. She urged the Permanent Council to keep abreast of the political tensions in Guyana. “CARICOM recommends that the OAS Permanent Council remains seized of the situation in Guyana and that it reviews the situation as may be necessary,” she said, adding the region’s appreciation for “patience and calm”.

Chief of the OAS Electoral Observer Mission to Guyana, former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding chronicled the electoral process to date and restated that the recount confirmed that efforts had been made to inflate the declaration for Region/ District Four. “These results, but for minor adjustments, reflected the results contained in the original statements of poll and conclusively established the extent to which the figures for Region Four were altered to give the APNU+AFC coalition an overall majority,” Mr. Golding said.

He said Chief Elections Officer Mr. Keith Lowenfield’s claims of voter impersonation were not substantiated and based on unproven allegations, he had removed 275,092 of the 460,352 valid votes based on observation reports of anomalies, irregularities and voter irregularities.

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July 2020