‘We will advocate for free and fair elections,’ says Canada’s envoy to Guyana

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With Local Government Elections (LGE) scheduled to be held on November 12, 2018, the Canadian Government through its High Commission in Guyana is advocating for free and fair elections locally.

Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana Lillian Chatterjee

Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lillian Chatterjee said that Canada has always been supportive of free elections in Guyana and would advocate for this to continue.

“I know a lot of people turn to me and say we need Canada there to ensure that the elections are going to be free and fair, and we certainly will advocate for free and fair elections,” she stated.

On that note, Chatterjee said that Canada welcomed the fact that Guyana was committed to LGE, especially given that it was the second time in almost 20 years that the country was holding such an election.

She said, “It’s important because it allows the citizens of Guyana to have more decentralised management in terms of municipalities and councils. And it brings the decision making closer to home so that not everything happens in the capital and they have more of a say over issues that affect their daily lives.”

The Canadian diplomat said that Canada would be present for the LGE and would continue to serve as an observer for general elections. As such, she committed her country to being here in 2020.

Chatterjee acknowledged the importance of international partners such as Canada being present during elections in Guyana, to ensure that the results were not compromised and that all elections were fair.

During the last LGE, Canada donated CD$20,000 to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). The funds were used to purchase several pieces of equipment, including public address systems. It helped to aid in fostering greater inclusion, civic responsibility, empowerment and participation of the citizenry.

While a commitment has been made by Canada and other countries, there are already major concerns with the electoral process in advance of LGE, mainly raised by the Opposition.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP), through one of its constituency candidates in Berbice, has filed legal proceedings against GECOM and an individual to have the names fraudulently affixed to the backer’s lists for LGE in the Ancient County removed.

The PPP is challenging on the grounds that the said decision was unlawful, illegal, and unreasonable and was in violation of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act.

The document cites the individual’s alleged refusal to withdraw the applicant’s name and the names of 49 other electors. It said unless the names were withdrawn, the election in the Local Authority Area would be tainted with “illegality and fraud”. The matter is fixed for hearing before Justice Navindra Singh on October 11, 2018. The attorneys representing the candidate are Adrian Anamayah, Ian Anamayah and Anil Nandlall.

The PPP announced recently also that it would not contest one seat in the Wakenaam Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) at the November 12 LGE, having withdrawn its list of candidates because a number of the names of nominators were either dead or they no longer lived in the area.

PPP General Secretary and Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo said his party only pulled out from contesting one of the nine constituencies in Wakenaam, Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) – Constituency Two, Rush Brook/Maria Johanna, which has 185 listed electors. The PPP/Civic will still be contesting the other eight constituencies and Proportional Representation seats.

However, the PPP/C has sought to point out that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) and the United Republican Party of Guyana (URP), on the other hand, have had allegations of fraud and other improprieties levelled against them in 42 of 80 NDCs, but have done nothing to this effect.

At Crabwood Creek, Corriverton, Number 63 and Whim Villages in Berbice, a total of 202 persons objected to the fraudulent inclusion of their names on lists of backers. Similar claims were made at La Grange, La Jalousie and Canal Polder in West Bank Demerara by dozens of persons.

The Party also has a legal matter pending. It has called for the legal challenge against the unilateral appointment of GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson be expedited before the holding of LGE.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has said the issues, which the case raises, strike at the heart of constitutional democracy and are intricately connected to peace, order and good governance in the country. (Samuel Sukhnandan)

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