OPINION: APNU/AFC must explain reason for opposing strong int’l presence in Guyana for recount

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FILE: International Observers in Guyana on Elections Day

The following is an opinion piece by Nalinie Singh (Political Science; BA York University)

The narrative seemingly being pushed by the propaganda arms of the APNU/AFC coalition is one that seeks to convey the impression that the representatives of the local diplomatic corps have somehow been elevated to the level of international Election Observer Missions in the ongoing saga that is the March 2020 elections.

A Thursday, May 7, 2020 article by the Department of Public Information said that the de facto Foreign Affairs Minister, Karen Cummings, “conveyed that the Government of Guyana valued their participation, which, as international observers, could provide an effective means to verify the genuineness and transparency” of Guyana’s electoral process. There was, of course, silence on the chance that there will be a return of the international Election Observer Missions that were here in March 2020.

I wish to stress that the representatives of the local diplomatic corps are not international Election Observer Missions and cannot replace those groups.

In fact, the representatives of the local diplomatic corps were accredited by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) as local observers for the March 2020 elections.

The High Commissioner of Canada to of Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee; High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, Greg Quinn; Ambassador of the United States, Sarah-Ann Lynch; and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the European Union (EU), Fernando Ponz Cantó, are all accredited by GECOM as local observers. This has been confirmed by GECOM itself.

There were five international Election Observer Missions that were invited by President David Granger, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and accredited by GECOM – The Carter Center, the Commonwealth, the Organisation of American States (OAS), the European Union and Caricom.

The fact that all five groups were accredited as international Election Observer Missions was reflected in a notice made under the General Elections (Observers) Act (Chapter 1:10).  Stabroek News published this notice on February 20, 2020, and it was signed by the GECOM Chairperson, Claudette Singh on February 19, 2020.  Stabroek News published an addendum to the notice on February 29, 2020, and it was signed by Singh on February 28, 2020.  The notice included the names of the persons who formed part of the five groups.

Having a team from Caricom in Guyana to scrutinise the recount process does not take away from the fact that the major international Election Observer Missions are not present in Guyana.

The article published by the Department of Public Information comes across to many as an attempt to try to diminish the fallout from the coalition’s failure to grant approval for The Carter Center team to return to Guyana to observe the ongoing recount process.

Also, at the level of GECOM, the necessity of having international observer missions to observe the recount process was reflected five times in the May 4, 2020, recount order.

The recount order said: “…the recount process shall be conducted in the presence of representatives of political parties that contested the said elections and observed by international and local observers accredited by the Guyana Elections Commission and advisors to the Guyana Elections Commission.

“…the following persons are entitled to be present: representatives of political parties that contested the said elections, the Caricom scrutinising team, international and local observers accredited by the Guyana Elections Commission

“…the Statement of Recount shall be signed by the person conducting the recount and by the representative of each contesting party present, in the presence of the Caricom scrutinising team, representatives of political parties that contested the said elections, international and local observers accredited by the Guyana Elections Commission,

“…the tabulation of the Statements of Recount generated after the aforementioned action at paragraphs 6 and 7 will be done at a central tabulation centre in the presence of the Caricom scrutinising team, representatives of political parties that contested the said elections, international and local observers and advisors to the Guyana Elections Commission

“…the supervisor for tabulation shall ascertain and verify the entries therein and calculate totals for each column therein, in the presence of the Caricom scrutinising team, representatives of political parties that contested the said elections, international and local observers accredited by the Guyana Elections Commission.”

GECOM needs to explain why there was no follow through on the commitment to re-engage the international Election Observer Missions, even though a role for them, as well as their importance, was reflected in the recount order.

On the other hand, the APNU/AFC coalition needs to explain to the Guyanese people why they seem opposed to a strong international presence in Guyana. For a political party that keeps insisting that it won the March 2020 elections, the coalition’s actions scream otherwise.