Owen Arthur, former Prime Minister of Barbados, led the Commonwealth Observer Group in Guyana. (FILE)
GEORGETOWN – The Commonwealth Observer Group, which monitored the March 2, 2020 regional and general elections here, said it is the clear that the tabulation processes conducted by the Returning Officer for Region 4 were not credible, transparent and inclusive.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to officially declare the results of the polls and the High Court will on Friday hear an interim against the Commission preventing it from carrying out a national recount of votes from the disputed March 2 regional and general elections.
Justice Franklyn Holder granted the injunction to the private citizen, Ulita Moore, and it further restrains GECOM from setting aside or varying the declarations already made by the ten electoral districts with any other documents or declarations until the hearing and determination of the judicial review of the application.
The respondents to the Court matter are the Guyana Elections Commission, the Chairman of the Commission and the Chief Elections Officer.
Last Friday, GECOM said the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity plus the Alliance for Change (APNU=AFC) had polled 136 057 and 130. 289 respectively in the general and regional elections as against 77 231 and 74 877 respectively for the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). If the preliminary result is upheld, it would mean that the coalition would have won the disputed polls.
But in its statement, the Commonwealth Observer Group, which was headed by former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, said that the series of events that it observed in the tabulation of Region 4 results between 3-14 March “are of grave concern”.
It said among the specific concerns were the repeated cessation of the tabulation process for a variety of irregular reasons and that the Observer Group “did not observe any material or substantive impediments inside the tabulation room, which might have prevented the resumption of the tabulation process”.
“It is the Group’s clear view that robust exchanges between political party agents in the room only occurred when the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) repeatedly halted the tabulation process,” it said.
Reference was also made to “the unlawful declaration made by Mr [Clairmont] Mingo [Returning Officer] on March 5 at about 2 p.m., despite the tabulation process being halted”.
It said that the “unlawful 5 March declaration of Mr Mingo was undertaken under heavy police guard; and his departure from the tabulation centre was guided and guarded by six police officers”.
The Group also noted the “continued failure of the Returning Officer, Mr Mingo, to comply with the 11 and 13 March orders and judgements of the Acting Chief Justice”, adding that on March 13, the Chief Justice made it patently clear that actual statements of poll should be shown to entitled parties present.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Acting Chief Justice demonstrated herself how this should be done and enquired “what was the difficulty in doing so” during the contempt of court proceedings.
The report was critical of Mingo and noted “at no point did the leadership of the Guyana Elections Commission halt or rectify these blatant instances of disregard for the rule of law and electoral ethics, despite its vested authority to independently ensure credible elections”.
“Despite the serious and persistent electoral malpractice observed by the Group from 3-14 March, the Group welcomed the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) initiative, at the invitation of President David Granger, to deploy a High-Level Team to Guyana, to supervise a recount of the ballots. The Group notes with regret that the Team has now departed Guyana having been unable to complete their task.”
The Group said it will submit its full report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will forward it to the Guyana government, GECOM, the leaders of political parties, and to all other 53 Commonwealth governments.