Rowley disappointed, concerned over political situation in Guyana

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T&T Prime Dr Keith Rowley (4th from left) with CARICOM Chair Barbadian PM Mia Mottley and other Regional Leaders at a press conference during the two-day visit to Guyana last month

One of Guyana’s closest bilateral partner, Trinidad and Tobago, has expressed concerns and worry over the current political impasse in Guyana that has been ongoing for more than one month since Guyanese cast their votes.

“My view is disappointment. As I speak to you now, I’m in touch with the Chairman of CARICOM on a daily basis, sometimes a nightly basis because we communicate at all hours of the night. Speaking as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and as a Caribbean person, I am very disappointed and also very concerned about the situation in Guyana,” the country’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said in an interview with CCN TV6’s Elizabeth Williams on Friday evening.

Dr Rowley was part of a High-Level Caribbean Community (CARICOM) team led by Chairperson, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, that came to Guyana on a two-day visit one week after the March 2 elections to engage various elections stakeholders particularly the 11 political parties that contested the polls.

Days later, PM Mottley brokered an agreement between caretaker President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to have a national recount conducted under the supervision of an independent regional team.

However, the five-member team had to withdraw services after an APNU/AFC Candidate, Ulita Moore, secured an injunction to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which had taken a decision to do the total recount, from moving ahead. A series of litigations had followed and the matter is still before the court.

According to PM Rowley, he was hopeful that the CARICOM visit would have brought to bear and some position that could have led to a result.

“I’m worried that an election held a month ago is a courthouse matter. I’m getting a feeling that this is not going to end well. I hope I’m wrong, but that feeling with the elections and the court after a month, I’m not having a good feeling about it.”

“What is even more troubling to me is that on the second (visit) we thought we had some sort agreement from the leadership in Guyana that they put a marker down, lets count the ballots and we will abide by that count. The ending of an election is counting the ballots. It is the counting of the ballots that is the end of the elections. And we thought we instilled that in our colleagues.”

The T&T PM explained that the CARICOM team, which included Trinidad’s own Chief Elections Officer, was sent as scrutineers and not to interfere with the process. This, he added, was done with the aim of bringing comfort to the people of Guyana that the figures that come out of the recount are credible, having been scrutinised by the independent team.

“The next thing we know, that presence of CARICOM, by invitation, became accusations against CARICOM and a legal process. So, we had to get out of there. And I don’t know where that leaves CARICOM now,” he asserted.

Only Friday, the GECOM Chair, (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh, took a decision to go ahead with a national recount, starting from Region One and working its way up to Region 10. However, one of the GECOM Commissioners, Vincent Alexander, told reporters that the recount would be supervised by the Elections Commission.

According to the T&T Prime Minister, while CARICOM’s role is uncertain at this time, the current situation is particularly unsettling given that the regional body’s head office is located in Guyana at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.

“…You must remember that the headquarters of CARICOM is situated in Georgetown so all of this is cause for concern. So we can’t accept a situation where in the headquarters territory, what is being threatened comes to pass. We cannot countenance that, and that is why I am hoping that we come to a speedy conclusion to this and that a decision is made which the Guyanese people can be comfortable with going forward,” Dr Rowley stated.