Finance Minister hails Private Sector Commission’s role in democracy in presence of APNU+AFC’s Volda Lawrence

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 May 2022, 22:27 by Denis Chabrol

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh addressing the Privaet Sector Commission’s 30th Annual general Meeting. Among the attendees was Opposition Shadow Finance Minister Volda Lawrence.

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh on Thursday praised the Private Sector Commission (PSC) for its historic role in promoting and preserving democracy.

“The PSC, indeed ,was founded before the 1992 return to democracy and its leadership paid an instrumental role in advocating electoral reforms that at the time would have seen the restoration  of democracy in Guyana that led to the first democratic elections in a long time, he told the PSC’s 30th Annual General Meeting.

Between 1964 and 1985, Guyana’s elections had been widely regarded as rigged through padded voters lists, overseas voting and centralised counting of ballots. But due to intense domestic pressure and the end of the Cold War, former United States President Jimmy Carter had successfully negotiated a series of electoral reforms including a fresh voters list and counting of the votes at the place of poll.

Speaking to an audience that included top business executives, diplomats and opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Shadow Finance Minister, Volda Lawrence, the Finance Minister also reflected on the PSC’s role in the controversial 2020 general and regional elections. “…not least of all,  course, in 2020 when once again the PSC found itself playing a central role in the struggle to protect the democratic credentials of our country,” he said.

The official opening of the Private Sector Commission’s Annual General Meeting.

Ms. Lawrence was among a number of PNCR supporters and then Guyana Elections Commission officials who had been charged in connection with fraud in the 2020 polls. A signature purported to be hers is seen on a GECOM declaration of results for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica).

After a national vote recount that had been observed by PSC representatives as well as a number of related court cases, the Guyana Elections Commission used the results from the national vote recount to declare the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) the winner in August 2020.

The PSC is regarded in some circles as enjoying quite a cozy relationship with the PPPC in and out of government.

Ms. Lawrence’s People’s National Congress Reform-led APNU+AFC continues to accuse the PPPC of electoral fraud especially in East Demerara.

Opposition and PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton has challenged Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo to a debate only if he deals with the recount observation reports that questions the validity of more than 100,000 votes. On the other hand, Mr. Jagdeo has said he will only agree to a debate if Mr. Norton produces his Statements of Poll.

APNU+AFC has so far resisted repeated calls to produce its Statements of Poll, but the Guyana Elections Commission has handed over its copies to the High Court. There are two APNU+AFC election petition appeals before the courts.

The then Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield had sought to remove the more than 100,000 votes from the declaration because he had deemed them invalid based on GECOM’s Order 60 that prescribed the recount.

The PPP won  33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly with 233,336 votes, A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) 31 seats with 217,920 votes and the three joinder parties- A New and United Guyana, Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement – one seat with their 5,214 votes.

Chairman of the formal opening session of the PSC’s Annual General Meeting, Executive Member Ramesh Dookhoo  urged the government and the opposition to have constructive debates. “I personally look forward to the level of discourse in Parliament being improved where we debate issues and we stop with personalities in and out of Parliament. That is what, I believe is the philosophy of the Private Sector Commission as we move on,” he said.