Guyana Elections 2000 — Comedy of Errors or Circus of Terrors? – By Yvonne Sam

By Yvonne Sam

Organizing free and fair elections is more important than the result itself.

The people who cast the votes decide nothing the people who count the votes decide everything.
Count me in as one of the bona fide Guyanese who was glad to know that the elections to decide who governs Guyana would be taking place on March 2, and even happier to know that there would be a team of observers (Organization of American States) headed by former Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding. Former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, is heading the Commonwealth Observer team. In place were all the elements to ensure that there would be
no element(s) of recurrence of the past — accusations of riggings, fraud, loud shouting and foul mouthing as was the case in the previous election of 2015.       

The PPP had ruled since 1992, and Afro-Guyanese complained that they were being marginalized. The coalition of the APNU/AFC fusion between the traditional black party and a smaller third party successfully campaigned to break that hegemony.

Additionally, on an invitation from the Guyana Government, The Carter Center, an Atlanta based not-for-profit, non-governmental organization guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights launched an election observation mission to also observe the March 2 general election.

The mission would observe and examine key aspects of the electoral process, including the pre-electoral environment, status of the Guyana Elections Commission’s preparations for elections, and campaigning. The Carter Center will also follow the post-election process, including the tabulation of results and resolution of any legal disputes. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr.Karen Cummings, in a letter dated November 20, 2019, wrote to the Secretary-General of the
Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, inviting CARICOM to mount an Election Observation Mission to observe the General and Regional Elections of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, to be held on March 2, 2020. On an ironical note Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, part of the team of regional prime ministers accompanying the chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM attempting to bring some semblance of peace and order to Guyana at this particular time,” reminded reporters in 1997 he was part of a similar undertaking while he was chairman of CARICOM. Let us not forget the ethnic riots of January 12, 1998, and the underlying motivating factors. https://guyanatimesgy.com/learn-from-the-ethnic-riots-of-january-12-1998/ .

So much being put in place to guarantee a fair race! Pray, say how did things ever get this way?
Here we are one week later, a country a mere 83, 574 square miles, that has long been one of the poorest countries in South America, still hand tallying general elections, on the verge of an oil explosion aimed at transforming the economy, and yet unable to conduct and complete a election process even in the face of so many high level diplomats and foreign observers being summoned to become inside onlookers. Like an ill –mannered, growth-stunted miscreant known for impish traits Guyana has to be under ever watchful eyes, poised to intervene at the first sign of misconduct. Needless to say, while the country may have gained notoriety because of the oil discovery, we have certainly put ourselves in the news on account of our blatant and rapidly-spreading dysfunctionality.

In the tallying of the results of the votes of March 2, diplomats and foreign observers described credible evidence of fraud. Such a statement is a damning indictment to the myriad of people commissioned to overlook the process. On Friday March 6, police surrounded an Elections Commission Office following accusations that the results of the vote in Region 4, the country’s most populous electoral district had been altered to favor Granger. An injunction was filed by
the PPP to block a winner from being declared, on the grounds that the most- populous electoral district had not been properly tabulated. Last Saturday the country’s top court was scheduled to rule on whether or not to block the elections commission from declaring Granger a winner.

Already protestors have taken to the streets. . PPP supporters blocked roads, set up barricades, burned tires and clashed with police. Police ranks came under attack by protestors whilst performing duty on the Cotton Tree Public Road. This encounter resulted in several ranks beinghospitalized and the death of the 18year old attacker.

This rising unrest threatens to inflame decades of racial tensions between black Guyanese, who broadly support Granger’s APNU-AFC coalition, and Indo-Guyanese, who largely back Irfaan Ali of opposition party PPP.

The current post -election sequela has openly demonstrated that Guyana have long been operating in the shadow of ethnicity politics. Perhaps, predictably this particular election has raised the stakes of an already – divided nation, and drawn new battle lines, with both the Indo Guyanese and Afro Guyanese eager to control oil revenue. Plainly put —–Who will control the spoils of the oil?—Will it be the PPP or the PNC—This we must patiently wait and see.

Experience has shown that most people’s votes are based on their biases and not on objective reality. Guyana has begun receiving millions of dollars from oil being produced in fields off its coast by companies including Exxon Mobil Corp, which has created creating a huge windfall for the country of less than 800,000 occupants.

The electoral process is still incomplete, as an injunction was filed by a supporter of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from declaring results. On March 11, 2020 Acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that the declaration of the unverified results for Region Four (Demerara/ Mahaica) by Clairmont Mingo, Returning Officer was unlawful as it was in total violation of Section 84(1)
of the Representation of the People’s Act. According to the Chief Justice, the declaration made by the Returning Officer is null, void and has no effect. As a consequence later than 11.00 a.m on March 12, 2020 the Acting Chief Justice has ordered the Returning Officer to commence compliance deciding on whether the verification process will be restarted or resumed She further ruled that GECOM cannot lawfully declare the 2020 election results both General and Regional
until the Returning Officer is in full compliance with the provisions in force.

While the nation awaits its political fate, there are several factors which must be addressed.

Why can’t Guyanese not complete the electoral process without unrest? What a shame! Every election the behaviour is the same.
To the world at large it has become clear that even the government is incapable of holding elections in a manner that’s fair. Democracy dictates that if the voters do not like the results of an election, then they simply have to tolerate it and pursue their interests the next time around. Most of the current shenanigans is déjà vu for the majority of Guyanese.

As Guyanese ruminate on how the oil will make the country great, let’s get this fact straight on every Guyanese slate—Elections determine who goes into power, but will never determine how the power is used.
So let us await the results before we start to shout, and hope that the new leader will have as his goal not only to lead the country, but to unite the nation as a whole.

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Comments

  • Rickie Sankar  On March 12, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Well said.

    Very sad.The children in secondary school could have done a proper job .

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