By Kemol King
Prime Ministerial hopeful, Khemraj Ramjattan has denied accusations that calls made by the Alliance for Change (AFC) for a government of national unity are opportunistic.
He made this and other comments in an interview over the phone on Kaieteur Radio’s Elections Watch yesterday.
The AFC leader was at the time commenting on a statement by the party, which has called for shared governance to come out of this time of political crisis, where the country has gone almost a month past elections without official elections results.
The party said that whichever party turns out to be the victor in these elections, must be willing to show magnanimity and accede to an agreed governance arrangement that involves shared governance, national unity and constitutional reform.
“The AFC holds the view that Guyana is at a moment in history when a concerted effort must be made to rid our country of its protracted and debilitating ethnic divisions.”
Ramjattan explained yesterday that he believes that the country is back to an “extraordinarily great” racial divide on both sides, and he expressed worry that the situation could become violent no matter the victor.
“A repeat of our bitter history of post elections violence and the propensity for ethnic conflicts must be avoided at all costs,” the AFC statement had read.
He is urging persons to remain calm through this time, and to work in solidarity with all citizens, especially in this time where the COVID-19 pandemic has already started to spread.
The coalition has not yet delivered on its promise of constitutional reform, despite holding office since 2015. Of this, Ramjattan said that government was making preparations but that those preparations were overtaken by more pressing issues.
Advocacy for a government of national unity was absent from the manifesto presented by A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) during the 2020 elections campaign.
All of this was addressed by Ramjattan, whose party had been silent on the events of the electoral process until its statement released on Monday night.
He said that the party was silent because it was deliberating on the violence that begun across the country, carried out by persons supportive of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).
Ramjattan also expressed that the party’s late calls for shared governance are not evidence of opportunism. Rather, Ramjattan said the calls are the party’s response to the current crisis which has been marred by violence, strife and accusations of electoral fraud.
The party’s statement submitted that the proposed government of national unity should be for a mutually agreed period, a census and national registration exercise to be undertaken within the life of such a government, and constitutional reform also undertaken and completed within the life of such a government, which would include a reformation of the electoral process.
Yesterday, the Full Court, chaired by Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire and Justice Nareshwar Harnanan, overruled the previous decision by Justice Franklyn Holder that the Court has jurisdiction to hear the case which had blocked the CARICOM-supervised recount contemplated by the President, the Opposition Leader and GECOM.
The Full Court’s ruling effectively clears the way for GECOM to continue with the CARICOM-supervised recount.
The party’s statement, in anticipation of the ruling, had said “The Alliance for Change holds that GECOM is the only constitutional authority empowered to independently supervise elections and the Party will therefore abide by its rulings and declarations. Perceived anomalies in tabulations should not render an entire constitutional institution dysfunctional.”
Ramjattan expressed some discontent with the ruling.
Nevertheless, the statement noted the party’s respect for decisions of the Court, and its faith in the Courts as a main constitutional pillar for dispensing justice.
It also affirmed that the AFC welcomes regional and international observers, as well as representatives of friendly states, and asked that they respect the constitutional right of Guyanese citizens to access legal and constitutional mechanisms for settling disputes.
This is likely a response to statements from the United States and its allies announcing that consequences would soon follow the swearing in of an illegitimate government. Additionally, the Chair of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley had said, following the announcement of the injunctions blocking the recount, that there are forces who do not want to a see national recount come to fruition.
Ramjattan has often said that the avenue for correcting grievances with any purported anomalies in the tabulation process would be an elections petition.
“There are available legal mechanisms for correcting these anomalies through fact and evidence-based proceedings. Any aggrieved party must utilize those proceedings in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order in our beloved country,’ the statement had posited.
On the matter of the electoral process, the AFC Leader said that he believes it is “hardly likely” however that the country’s long wait for a conclusion to the electoral process will come to an end soon. Ramjattan said it is likely that either party would head all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to see the outcome they desire.
The APNU+AFC candidate Ulita Moore’s team had already expressed intention to head to the Court of Appeal to challenge the Full Court’s decision.
Whether the CCJ would make way for an appeal, if it were to reach that level, is unclear, as the Caribbean Court had recently announced its closure until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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