…such calls are “irresponsible, dangerous”
…Private Sector Chair also expresses concern
Recent comments on the campaign trail by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) politicians are being labelled by the main Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) – as irresponsible, after People’s National Congress (PNC) Chair Volda Lawrence called for supporters to mobilise on and stand watch at polling stations on election night – March 2.
The comments were made by Lawrence during a rally at the Kitty Market Square, Georgetown on Sunday. She went on to urge 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 know that you are out there,” Lawrence told APNU/AFC supporters.
“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,” she urged the supporters.
However, Lawrence’s comments were described as irresponsible and dangerous by the PPP/C. Former Attorney General and PPP/C candidate Anil Nandlall on Monday said that a crowd of supporters mobilising at polling stations could get out of control. He cited what occurred in 2015 when PPP activists were assaulted and a house and car torched after voting had ended.
“In 2015, even senior APNU leaders could not have controlled such an assembled crowd from degenerating into a violent mob that unleashed violence on PPP/C’s candidates and activists, which led to the burning of Joe Hamilton’s car and a polling station erupting in flames and burned to the ground, which was someone’s private residence at Sophia, Greater Georgetown,” Nandlall stated.
“Similarly, at a primary school, located at Better Hope South, East Coast Demerara, which was used as a polling place, an assembly of PNC supporters quickly descended into a riotous mode and brutally assaulted my driver whom I had instructed to pick up PPP/C polling agents and Statement of Polls from that polling place.”
According to Nandlall, it is the role of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the armed services to protect ballot boxes. He also noted that to the best of his knowledge, both entities carry out their duties in an efficient manner. Therefore, the Public Health Minister’s call for mobilising supporters is “wholly unnecessary”.
“The reality is that GECOM and the security forces of our country are responsible for ensuring the safety of the ballots. The inconvenient truth is that it is only one political party that has historically demonstrated proclivities of violence at elections time which have often threatened to derail the electoral process. It is damn ironic for this self-same political party to call for protection of the ballots.”
Nandlall called upon the international community, the elections observer teams, “all stakeholders and every responsible and freedom-loving Guyanese to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this most ominous development. Our electoral history is replete with examples, to establish beyond a shadow of doubt, that nothing good can come out of it.”
Meanwhile, Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman Gerry Gouveia also expressed concern over the development and the statements made by the Public Health Minister. On his social media page, he questioned why the Police and GECOM are not being allowed to do their work in peace.
“While I respect the rights of any political party to be vigilant, shouldn’t the security forces and GECOM be allowed to do their work? There are already observers and party agents present at every polling station; therefore, urging ordinary citizens to also insert themselves in the process could lead to trouble,” he said.