Criteria used for stranded Guyanese return should apply to Carter Center’s request – Ali

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FILE: International Observers in Guyana

Peoples Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Presidential Candidate, Dr Irfaan Ali, has welcomed the decision by the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) to allow over 3000 Guyanese stranded overseas to return home. However, he was adamant that the same criteria being used by the caretaker Government to make this possible should have been applied when considering the applications by the International Observers to return here to oversee the ongoing national recount.

Following a special meeting today, the NCTF announced that within the controlled re-entry policy, the Task Force has approved the return of approximately 300 Guyanese nationals who are stranded overseas and who have registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Guyanese Embassies, High Commissions and Honourary Consuls.

According to the Task Force, this approval encompasses Guyanese nationals in Trinidad and Tobago and in New York, New Jersey, Florida and other states in the United States of America and also in other countries; and is subject to certain strict conditions.

“I am very pleased that Guyanese would be able to return home. A lot of Guyanese are out there in various cities and countries and they are suffering. They are going through rough circumstances,” Ali said in welcoming the decision.

However, the Presidential Candidate questioned the reason for the government not using the same set of criteria in considering the applications of the Washington-based Carter Center to return to complete their mission it started in relation to observing the March 2, polls.

“The criteria used for the return of Guyanese are those that can be used for the return of the Observers. There is no rational reason to deny International Observers the right to be here,” Ali argued.

PPP Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali addressing the large gathering at the Stewartville rally

In a statement on Thursday, the Carter Center said it is “deeply disappointed” by the Guyana Government’s decision to deny its requests twice for two accredited international observers to return to Guyana to observe the ongoing recount and the remainder of Guyana’s electoral process.

“…the Center is disappointed that the Government of Guyana chose not to demonstrate a genuine commitment to transparency by ensuring that all duly accredited organisations, including The Carter Center, be allowed to conduct their work,” the Center said.

It noted that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has consistently confirmed that the accreditation of The Carter Center and other international observation groups remains valid, and that the electoral process is not complete, hence international observers are welcome.

Last Friday, caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Karen Cummings indicated that Government has denied the Carter Center Mission’s request, along with that of advisors from the International Republican Institute (IRI), to return to Guyana for the recount exercise, citing the series of emergency measures, including the imposition of a curfew and the closure of Guyana’s international airports. Further, she asked that her administration’s decision be respected.

But according to the Carter Center, it fully respects Guyana’s national sovereignty and its efforts to strictly implement its COVID-19 Emergency Measures as a matter of utmost urgency. However, the Center did note that it is willing to abide by all of the Government’s COVID-19 protocols, including those applied to the CARICOM team.