ABCE diplomats honoured for preserving democracy in Guyana

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Former British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Guyana Fernando Ponz-Canto, US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch, and Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Lilian Chatterjee walking out of the Office of the Region Four Returning Officer amid major irregularities in the vote tabulation process (Don Singh Photo)

The ABCE diplomatic missions in Guyana – United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union (EU) – were on Wednesday recognised and honoured for their role in ensuring the preservation of Guyana’s democracy following the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections when the country was embroiled in a prolonged impasse for five months.

This recognisition came from the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) at its 25th Annual Awards Ceremony held at State House.

US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch, former British High Commissioner Greg Quinn, outgoing Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee, and EU Ambassador Fernando Ponz Canto received awards “in recognition of [their] sterling contribution towards the preservation of democracy and democratic principles in Guyana.”

The four envoys were vocal in their calls for democracy to prevail in Guyana and for the will of the Guyanese people be respected after the APNU/AFC Coalition refused to concede defeat at the March 2 polls and demit office.

In fact, even after a national recount confirmed the People’s Progressive Party/Civic electoral victory, the David Granger-led Coalition continued with its delay tactics by moving to the courts.

The western diplomats had deemed the tabulation process for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) – Guyana’s largest voting district – as lacking transparency and credibility. This was after attempts were made by embattled Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, along with others to inflate the votes in favour of the then Coalition administration.

As the electoral impasse continued months after the March polls, the ABCE diplomatic community continued mounting pressure on the APNU/AFC to concede defeat, warning of Guyana facing isolation and consequences.

In fact, the United State had gone ahead to impose visa sanctions against several government and electoral officials, and their immediate family members, for their role in undermining democracy in Guyana. The UK, Canada as well as the EU had also indicated that they were also considering following suit.

However, this advocacy by ABCE envoys had resulted in attacks against them by the former government and Coalition supporters.

At Wednesday’s Award Ceremony, GMSA President Shyam Nokta described the electoral process as a “nightmare” and lauded the efforts of the ABCE envoys.

“I wish to also put on record the GMSA’s appreciation to the representatives of the ABC&E countries, Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch, High Commissioner Greg Quinn, High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee and Ambassador Fernando Canto, for the unwavering stand you took to ensure democracy prevailed in Guyana. Thank you,” he declared.

Nokta also recognised the Private Sector Commission (PSC), the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the wider private sector the collective stance they also took during that period.

“What was expected to be a relatively smooth process turned out to be a nightmare for the country, as it took five months for the winner to be declared and a new Government to take office. Those five months were difficult. The private sector collectively joined efforts with civil society, other local organisations and groups and the international community to ensure democracy prevailed,” he posited.

According to the GMSA President, 2020 will be remembered as a year of challenges but also as a year when Guyanese withstood these challenges.