“Deliberate fraud” a serious offence – Carter Center warns

Dr David Carroll

…says “unusual” for Govt to block int’l observers

The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition’s decision to bar international observers from coming to Guyana to observe the recount exercise was “unusual.”

This is according to the Washington-based Carter Center, whose observer team was twice denied permission to return to the country amid the closure of the airports due to COVID-19.

Director of the Center’s Democracy Programme, Dr David Carroll told Inews that while the organisation respects the Guyana Government’s decision, it was unusual to not want such an important exercise witnessed by credible international observers.

“We really thought it would be important for us to be there because the recount was a vital part of bringing clarity to the overall results, and we took our observation accreditation invitation seriously and our mission to see this process through to its conclusion. So, we wanted to be there, we hoped to be there,” Dr Carroll explained.

Dr David Carroll

Despite pressure from local and international stakeholders to allow The Carter Center team to return, the David Granger Administration was resolute in its position to block the international group from observing the recount, citing the COVID-19 restrictions.

In the same vein, however, the coalition Administration was allowing other personnel to fly to Guyana. In fact, they granted the Caribbean Community (Caricom) observer team permission to land in the country.

“We noted that there were others coming and so we found it unusual,” Dr Carroll expressed. “It would have been, from my perspective, better to allow other observer groups to return under the same conditions that were allowed for Caricom,” The Carter Center representative explained.

“I understand that there was a special role created for Caricom … but I think it would have been a better decision to allow any of the accredited observers to come back as long as they strictly abided by any of the public health COVID-19 protocols that were established and we were willing to do that.”

Nevertheless, The Carter Center representative said he respects the Government’s decision. However, Dr Carroll noted that not being able to be in Guyana to first-hand observe the recount has proven to be challenging.

He explained that The Carter Center has stayed in touch with people locally and its members keep abreast with the news as it continues to observe the electoral process from afar.

Notwithstanding, The Carter Center said it has full confidence that the Caricom team – which was on the ground for the entire recount exercise, did a “thorough job”.

Dr Carroll believes that the recount results, as certified by Caricom, is a good basis to declare the official results of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.

In fact, he highlighted that its own observers, who were on the ground up until mid-March, observed nothing that would have amounted to a “systemic, large problem on Elections Day”.

“Deliberate fraud”

The APNU/AFC coalition is being accused, largely by the PPP/C, of attempting to rig the elections.

The process started in the tabulation centre for Region Four where the Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo used inflated figures to hand the victory to the APNU/AFC – which was quick to celebrate a win on those concocted numbers despite objections from all local and international stakeholders.

After those attempts were thwarted by the PPP/C which had approached the courts, a countrywide recount exercise eventually got underway.

Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield

During that activity, which confirmed that the PPP/C won the elections, the APNU/AFC began to make unsubstantiated allegations that the elections were not credible. They claimed votes were recorded in the names of dead and migrated persons – allegations which were debunked by members of the public.

Now, through the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, the APNU/AFC is being handed a “victory” after he manufactured votes in their favour. In so doing, Lowenfield disenfranchised over 115,000 voters – a move which has resulted in major backlash including from the Caricom Chair, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Asked about consequences for those suspected to be involved in electoral fraud, The Carter Center said “I think it should follow the rule of law, what is established in the Guyanese legal framework.

Dr Carroll posited that: “obviously deliberate fraud is a serious offence and whatever the Guyanese legal framework calls for, should be pursued.”