OPINION: Trotman should apologise for unjustified attack on Caricom member states

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The following is an opinion piece by Dr Vishnu Bisram

Trotman’s attack against small islanders is unjustified. As part of my studies, I am fortunate to travel to almost all of the small island states of Caricom (plus French and Dutch islands and the few remaining British colonies) some multiple times interacting with so many Guyanese.

The small islands have been very hospitable to Guyanese who are most appreciative of their stay to remain in place to make a decent living. The Guyanese diaspora on the islands would not agree with the vitriolic attack against the islanders by Raphael Trotman. In fact, Guyanese condemn such acrid comments. Without the islands’ safety net for Guyanese migrants, many would have suffered tremendously. So it is wrong to attack the islands.

I am very disappointed with the acerbic remarks uttered by Trotman, against ‘small member states’ telling them “to mind their own business” after they made remarks calling for the declaration of election results as per the National Recount of votes and the ruling of the Trinidad-based CCJ. For his remark and for defending Mingo and Lowenfield’s electoral fraud, Trotman is losing whatever respect people still have for him.

Trotman unwisely said: “The political situation in Guyana is Guyana’s problem”. Yet it was de facto President Granger that called on PM Mia Mottley and other Caricom leaders to visit Guyana on March 13 to help bring about a solution to publicly expose electoral fraud. Former PMs Owen Arthur and Bruce Golding reported they observed efforts to rig the vote count in public view. It was Guyana Government that asked for Caricom intervention.

Thus, it is inappropriate for a Government official to attack fellow Caricom States on the issue. In a globalised world and in the integrated Caribbean, member states have a right to speak out against electoral fraud. It would be inappropriate for Caricom to stand by silently while rights are violated as happened between 1966 and 1992.

Contrary to Trotman, Guyana does not have a constitutional crisis. It has an election declaration crisis in which the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Lowenfield, refused to follow the directives of the Elections Commission (GECOM) to prepare the final results of the recount as the basis for a declaration. On three occasions, the CEO defied the order, submitting his own manufactured numbers that showed the incumbent won the elections.

The vote recount was carried out by Caricom monitors that came from small islands. The PMs of Barbados and St Vincent have been in the forefront calling for closure of the electoral process in Guyana. The President of the CCJ, Justice Saunders, who is from St Vincent, and other Judges unanimously ruled that GECOM must instruct the CEO to prepare a report based on the recount.

GECOM’s hands are tied on the declaration. It must accept the recount numbers. Those who feel GECOM must accept the CEO’s report don’t understand the concept of natural justice.

While a Commission is required to declare the result based upon the report of the CEO, it must be an accurate reflection of the ballots cast not based on the whims and fancies of the CEO. The Constitution specifically states the CEO must prepare a report based on a count or a recount that replaces a count. The Commission is empowered to correct the report. GECOM cannot accept an incorrect report as it violates a basic principle of electoral democracy.

Trotman forgets that hundreds of thousands of Guyanese found refuge in the small islands of the region including Barbados during the period of the ethnic dictatorship. It was from Caricom states that Guyanese were able to obtain basic foods, banned from Guyana and criminalised by the Burnham dictatorship, that were smuggled into Guyana using creative mechanisms. Even Trotman studied in a Caricom State; so many Guyanese studied in Barbados. Trotman ought to apologise to the region and tell his colleagues to accept GECOM’s lawful declaration.

Separately, the world has condemned attempts at electoral fraud in Guyana. The world (including the UN, OAS, Commonwealth and Caricom Secretary Generals) has called for a declaration of the results based on the recount figures. GECOM must act accordingly and President Granger must accept that outcome.