Guyanese cannot solve their political problems alone. International mediation is needed to resolve these problems.
The difficulties in finding a solution to Guyana’s political crises is worsened by the fact that the PNCR, which is always at the center of the country’s political crises, has great difficulty operating under a democratic framework.
In 1997, the PNCR decided that it was unwilling to wait another term to return to power. As such, it took advantage of the electoral confusion of its own making and commenced the ‘slow fyah, moh fyah’ to pressure the Janet Jagan regime to demit office.
What it could not achieve at the polls, it tried to steal on the streets. Guyana has never recovered from that period since, except for 2006. The PNCR has consistently refused to accept its defeat at the polls and has instigated political violence and terror, the likes of which were never seen before in Guyana.
There was a politically-inspired plot to destabilize the 1997 elections and use that to remove the government by street protests. Numerous polling agents from Georgetown – and only Georgetown- ran to Congress Place with the statements of polls and when others from other areas placed their statements of polls in the ballot boxes.
This led to problems in confirming the results for many polling stations. A verification exercise had to be launched and this delayed the results thereby presenting the PNCR with the opportunity to instigate unrest to topple the government.
It was mainly due to international mediation, led by Henry Forde of Barbados and Shridath Ramphal, that an agreement was reached for an audit of the elections, the reduction of the term of office of the PPPC and for dialogue.
The Caricom Audit Team, led by Justice Ulric Cross, undertook an audit of the results of the elections. The team went through every single ballot box, recounted the votes and then compared this with the tallies which were used to declare the final results.
The Report of the Audit Team did not find any fraudulent ballots. A secret code was evident in all the ballots scrutinized.
With respect to the Statements of Polls, the Audit Team found that the majority for Regions 4 and 6 were originals and had the signatures of the Presiding Officers – as such these were not bogus.
The report also examined the issue of voter identification card which was used for the first and only time in those elections, at the insistence of the PNCR which subsequently challenged its legality. The Report found that there was no evidence of fraud in the use of these identification cards.
In terms of the more substantive issue of the results, the recount differed only marginally from the results declared by the Chief Elections Officer. The charges of voter fraud therefore, could not be substantiated.
The PNC was prepared to destroy the country over allegations which could not be substantiated. One man was kidnapped by a PNC mob and taken to Congress Place where he was questioned by none other than Desmond Hoyte about having ballot boxes in his home.
Guyana was turned into a laughing stock because of the actions of the PNCR. The Audit found no basis for overturning the results of the elections. The elections were subsequently vitiated by our High Court but on the grounds that the use of the voter identification card was unconstitutional.
The PNCR has a track record of not respecting democratic norms International mediation is likely to be frustrated by undemocratic politics of the PNCR.
There is only one way in which international mediation is going to work in Guyana: if it is preceded by international pressure. It is therefore time for the international community to begin to apply the pressure on the government to act in accordance with the Constitution and to end the political crisis which is of its own making.
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