Keeping an eye on elections…
In the hopes of seeing yet another free, fair and non-violent election here
in Guyana, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) yesterday morning signed off on a grant worth US$217,235 (approx. G$44M) to the Electoral Assistance Bureau.
Mission Director of USAID in Guyana, Carol Horning, said that the move comes in a special year for the agency, both locally and abroad. This year Guyana will see both Local Government and National Elections being contested, meanwhile on the international scale, USAID turns 50.
She said on the occasion, “Over the years, USAID has consistently and significantly supported activities that promote the achievement of free, fair and violence-free elections – with particular emphasis on transparency of the electoral process and equal access of all citizens to exercise their right to vote.”
Horning said that the ability of citizens to observe and comment on the electoral process is the “cornerstone of a vibrant democratic electoral process”. She noted that the observation of the elections played an important role in the success of the 2006 polls and presented her agency’s desire to see those elections as the beginning of a trend here in Guyana.
According to Horning, the EAB was selected for the grant “due to its past experiences in successfully organizing monitoring efforts and the base of community support it enjoys among the business community, faith-based organizations, trade unions and individuals.”
She pointed out that the EAB, in its role as an accredited local observer organization for the 2006 elections, mobilized over 2,000 volunteers who manned the hotlines, trained observers, observed elections (both at polling places and as roving supervisors) and gave freely of their time and resources to serve as supervisors.
Horning noted that as an observer group, with local observers at many of the polling places, the EAB garnered useful insight and information over and above the normal requirements of visiting observers.
She said, “The contribution made by the EAB to the restoration of democracy in Guyana has been noted in the US Congressional Record, and has been attested to as well by The Carter Center, the late President Cheddi Jagan, and by the Guyanese people themselves.”
The grant will be used to help the EAB undertake a number of tasks in preparation for the 2011 Elections. Some of these tasks include; recruiting, training, deploying and supporting over 2,000 individuals who will observe election day procedures including the counting of ballots and establishing a real-time regional communication system.
The Bureau will be expected to monitor activities throughout the country during the pre- and post-Election Day periods. They will also work towards setting up and maintaining dialogue with election officials, political parties and relevant stakeholders on any issues that may arise during election season. Their task, post-elections, will be to provide an analysis of the electoral process by means of a comprehensive report.
Father Malcolm Rodrigues, current Chairman of the EAB and one of its founding members, stated that the organization is very grateful to all of its donors over the last two decades. He noted that the agency will be working diligently to get training underway as soon as possible. He pointed to the importance of making sure that the persons selected for the training were not political activists, and it was also of great importance that these persons understood their principal role was one of observation and not interference – they will not be officials, but observers.
He asserted that in the training, some of the persons are old hands, and will therefore be able to assist the younger, newer recruits. Fr. Rodrigues pointed to the interior as one of the areas that gives the Bureau some trouble, since it is difficult to reach some of the locations.
Yet even in the face of challenges, Guyanese are dedicated to the wellbeing of their country. He recalled running a training session in a hinterland location that saw participants coming from all over, but none more inspiring than the tale of one woman who walked for three days, simply to make it to the training session.
He noted also the support of the local business community in helping the Bureau reach all of the polling stations in their areas with no complaint. Father Rodrigues also highlighted the fact that the Bureau is in fresh, new hands pointing to those of Abbas Mancey, who is the new Project Director.
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