Guyana’s 2020 elections: Peaceful elections are in everyone’s interest – Mia Mottley

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Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley

…says Caricom will keep watchful eye

The importance of Guyana conducting free and fair elections was emphasised by Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairperson and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who visited Guyana on Monday.

During a press conference at the Caricom Secretariat on Monday evening, Mottley revealed that she met with various officials including Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger.  She also met with the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

The Bajan Prime Minister was asked on Monday about concerns related to elections in Guyana and whether she was satisfied with the preparations being made by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

“Caricom will have a team, as will many other observers, present on the ground. I think both sides are comfortable. There are some concerns, but they are going to work themselves out. We will keep a watchful eye.”

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley

“And we have every confidence in the Guyanese people that they will resolve their determinations and decisions in a way that will inure to the benefit of the people of this country. I think everyone knows that a peaceful election is in the interest of everyone,” Mottley also explained.

With elections due March 2, 2020, political parties have been hitting the campaign trail in full stride. Some comments made by various politicians during rallies and meetings, however, have been a cause for worry due to its inflammatory potential.

People’s National Congress (PNC) Chair Volda Lawrence recently made certain controversial comments during a meeting in the Kitty market square. In her comments, she had urged supporters to remain at polling stations until ballots are counted and statements of polls posted, after which the party will secure the ballot boxes.

“When six o’clock hit, you supposed to have already had your bath and put on your nightshift clothing. You understand what I’m saying comrades? This is not the time to be sleeping. They must not catch us sleeping on the job! At six o’clock you’re required to work at the places of polling and you will remain out there and let our staff inside that you are out there.”

“Let them know everything is covered, APNU/AFC! You have to give that support. You have to remain there until they get it right… and then our nice, strong men will be mobilised to follow that ballot box, until it goes into that container and the APNU/AFC padlock and chain is placed on that container… we aren’t making no joke with them votes.”

These comments resulted in a number of stakeholders expressing concern, such as the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and sections of civil society. In the case of the Opposition, former Attorney General and current party candidate, Anil Nandlall had written to GECOM urging that they address the issue.

In the letter, which was addressed to GECOM Chair, retired Justice Claudette Singh, he reminded her of the violence that accompanied the 2015 elections when a car was torched and activists assaulted following a misunderstanding over ballot boxes.

GECOM Chair (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh

The attorney-at-law had also pointed out in his letter that Section 78 of the Representation of the People Act prohibits persons from interfering with the transport of ballot boxes. In her response, Justice Singh revealed that the matter would be placed on the Commission’s agenda for today’s statutory meeting.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Prime Minister Mottley will return to Barbados by today. Mottley, as Caricom Chair, recently accused United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo of trying to divide the region. Her comments came as a selected group of Caricom countries were invited to a meeting with Pompeo, who was visiting the region.

“I don’t look to pick fights, but I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything. As Chairman of Caricom, it is impossible for me to agree that my Foreign Minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of Caricom are not invited. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” she said.