‘Coalition using COVID-19 as a political tool to hang on to power’ – Irfaan Ali

FILE: People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Presidential Candidate, Dr Irfaan Ali meeting with residents prior to the March polls

People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Presidential Candidate, Dr Irfaan Ali has lambasted the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) for its willingness to use coronavirus to hang on to power.

This follows caretaker Prime Minister Noses Nagamootoo instructing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), a constitutional body, that it cannot extend its recount into curfew hours.

Inexplicably, Nagamootoo also informed GECOM that observers granted special permission to oversee the recount must quarantine for 14 days after arriving, again delaying the exercise. Ali, in his comments on the matter, pointed out that observers could have simply been asked to take a coronavirus test upon entry in Guyana.

“How can people who shamelessly occupy Government office speak about morality and good governance,” Ali questioned. “Everything since the No-Confidence has been to derail democracy and install a dictatorship.”

“How can a decision to quarantine observers for 14 days be described as promoting democracy. Absolute nonsense, one must not use COVID-19 as a political tool to hang on to power. Why not ask the observers to have a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arrival?”

Former Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo

While this would seem the logical course of action, Ali posited that Nagamootoo and company did not think about this because it would not suit their agenda of delaying the election results.

“Beyond COVID-19 is the social and economic hardships our people are enduring. Jobs lost, hunger, depression, anger and to top it off an illegal bunch hanging on to power,” the Presidential Candidate pointed out.

“The decision for the recount has already been made. The COVID Task Force cannot insert itself and outline conditionalities to delay and sabotage the process. It would be interesting to know who attended this COVID Task Force meeting when this decision was taken.”

According to Ali, it all comes down to principle and whether someone supports democracy or not. He urged that the Government desist from its “fanciful excuses and rain dancing” and “allow the will of the people to be respected.”

Nagamootoo’s instructions to GECOM came after GECOM Chairperson, Claudette Singh, informed the Commission that she had written to the caretaker Prime Minister and Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force with some specific requests.

These specific requests had related to the working hours for those taking part in the count.

According to Justice Singh, Nagamootoo had indicated at the time “that an urgent meeting of the Task Force would be convened to discuss same and a response would be provided shortly.”

GECOM Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield and Chairperson of GECOM, retired Justice Claudette Singh

Singh had also communicated to the Commissioners on Friday that there would be no more than 10 work stations for the recount of the ballots cast countrywide during the March 2, General and Regional Elections.

This is despite one half of the Commission recommending 20 work stations in order to ensure the exercise can be completed in a timely manner. After a site inspection, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj had been adamant that the Arthur Chung Conference Centre could accommodate 20 stations.