‘The sacrifice is worth it’ – ‘Guardians’ of ballot boxes say they will keep watch to the end

Some of the persons outside GECOM, who are continuously keeping watch on the containers, in which the ballot boxes are stored, at GECOM Headquarters

A group of Guyanese has been continuously keeping watch of the containers which have the ballot boxes from the March 2, 2020 elections, that are being stored at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Head Office in Kingston, Georgetown.

These persons have set up camps at the corner of Cowan and Fort Streets, Kingston, Georgetown, as well as at Cowan and High Streets, Kingston. They are out there all day and night, using a shift system for different groups.

INews visited the area and spoke with the persons on the day shift. One such person, Asif Mohamed, related that on March 2, Guyanese exercised their franchise and it is their democratic right to have those votes counted in a credible and transparent manner as was done in the other nine districts in Guyana.

He noted that they are at a loss as to why there are delays in the recounting process.

After the Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, went ahead and declared discredited results, which many of the parties that contested the elections said was marred with fraud, the Chairperson of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, intervened and fielded a five-member high-level regional team to supervise a national recount that was requested by President David Granger and agreed to by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

However, that regional team was forced to withdraw from Guyana after an injunction was obtained by APNU/AFC candidate, Ulita Moore, blocking GECOM from conducting the recount. That interim injunction is currently being heard in the High Court, thus putting a hold on the recounting process.

As such, all of the containers with the ballot boxes were taken back to GECOM Headquarters and while one representative from each party is allowed inside the compound to watch over the containers, Mohamed insisted that extra vigilance needs to be taken.

He went on to point out that this step to guard the containers is much more required since the events that played out after the March 2 polling day has resulted in a decrease in confidence of the Elections Commission.

Nevertheless, Mohamed posited that while it is not easy being out there day in and day out since many of them have jobs and families at home, the sacrifice now is worth it rather than having to suffer in the long run.

“You might be suffering a little now but losing this would mean suffering, and your children’s children would be suffering for decades to come. So I think this sacrifice, even though it’s hard, it’s worthwhile. I would do it and stay here to the end… We are committed to the end to ensure our votes are counted. That is all we are asking for. Let our votes be counted,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, another person, who was also camped outside GECOM, Cedrick Castello related to INews that it is the duty of every Guyanese to ensure that the integrity of the ballots is preserved and that Guyana continues to be a country that rules on the rule of law.

On the other hand, Linden Jemmott, who is also on ‘container watch’ duties said that he just wants to see the truth come out from this entire process so that the country, which is at a standstill, can continue to progress.

Jemmott, who is a sculptor, lamented on the fact that business has been slow and almost non-existent since the start of the year. He noted that it’s not just with him but even the stores and commercial businesses have had similar complaints.

However, even as these persons are committed to continue keeping watch of the ballot containers until a recount is done, concerns have been raised over their public gathering with the coronavirus pandemic. Guyana has confirmed five cases to date with one death and authorities have advised against large gatherings.

But according to Mohamed, they are taking every precaution they can in their situation. He noted that businesses have donated sanitisers and other disinfectants, which they are using to protect themselves.