An 11-person strong team from The Commonwealth, led by former Barbados leader, Owen Arthur, has arrived in Guyana and began work ahead of the general elections next Monday.
According to a statement from The Commonwealth, the team arrived in Georgetown on Mash Day and began its briefing programme yesterday.
“Over the next three days, we will continue to meet with key stakeholders including the Guyana Elections Commission, political parties, civil society, the media, the police and citizen and international observers.”
The Commonwealth team would be one of several observers group in Guyana for what has been described as one of the toughest elections in the history of this country.
The others include the US-headquartered Carter Center, CARICOM, the European Union and the private sector.
“I am greatly honoured to have been asked by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland QC, to lead the Commonwealth Observer Group to the General and Regional Elections, scheduled for 2 March 2020. This is the seventh consecutive election that the Commonwealth has observed in Guyana and our presence here affirms the support of the Commonwealth to this country and its democratic processes.”
The group was constituted following an invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November.
“It is comprised of 11 eminent persons drawn from across the different regions of the Commonwealth, including Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific. They bring a wealth of experience from across the social and political spectrum with expertise in the fields of politics, election management, law, the media, gender, civil society and human rights.”
The Commonwealth team said that their mandate is to observe and evaluate the electoral process independently and impartially.
“We will assess the pre-election environment, polling day activities and the post-election period and consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. We will then report on whether it has been conducted in line with Guyana’s national legislation, as well as the country’s regional and international commitments,” explained the former PM of Barbados.
The Commonwealth Secretariat staff, who arrived in advance of the Group on 19 February, observed early voting of the disciplined forces on 21 February.
From Friday; 28th February, observers will be deployed in small teams across the country to observe preparations ahead of polling day and meet with local stakeholders.
“On Election Day, we will observe the opening, voting, closing, counting and the results management processes.”
The Commonwealth said that it will issue an interim statement on its preliminary findings on March 4th 2020.
“A final report will then be prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and subsequently shared with relevant stakeholders and the public. The Group will depart Guyana on 9 March 2020. We are aware of the significance of these elections to the people of Guyana and we call on all stakeholders to demonstrate commitment to a peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive election,” Arthur disclosed.
In addition to Arthur, the team includes Lebrechtta Nana Oye Bayne, Social Economist & Gender Expert (Antigua and Barbuda); Sir Gerald A. Watt KCN, QC, Speaker of the House of Representatives (Antigua and Barbuda); Lisa Shoman, Former Foreign Minister and Tribunal Judge and Senior Counsel (Belize); Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer (Belize); John Hendra, Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General (Canada); Gitobu Imathiu Imanyara, Former MP (Kenya); Mitra Vasisht, Ambassador of India (Retired) (India); Sarah Fradgley, Media Expert (New Zealand/UK); Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka) and Stephen John Hiscock, Retired Diplomat (UK).
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states.
It is home to 2.4 billion citizens, of whom 60 per cent are under the age of 30.
The Commonwealth includes some of the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries, spanning five regions. 32 of its members are small states, many of them island nations. Commonwealth countries are supported by an active network of more than 80 inter-governmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.
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