As it works out the modalities of a national recount of all votes cast in last month’s general and regional elections, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has agreed that CARICOM should play a role different from the role of a regular observer, where its presence would serve to validate the recount.
This is according to Commissioner Vincent Alexander, who spoke with reporters after the Commission’s meeting yesterday.
Alexander explained that the idea is to get CARICOM involvement, but not as supervisors.
The Appeal Court recently stated that it would not be lawful for CARICOM to usurp the authority of GECOM to supervise the electoral process.
Commissioner Alexander, along with his colleague, Sase Gunraj, said that the Commission agreed in principle that all the other observers would be retained for the recount.
The international observers were very much prominent in their involvement in the electoral process. Alexander has said repeatedly that they did not respect the distance from which they should have observed the process.
They were not actually required to give validation to the process, Alexander told reporters.
CARICOM had sent a high-level team when GECOM first contemplated a recount. But that plan was obstructed by a series of interim injunctions.
In this case, Alexander said that CARICOM’s role would be retained in a modified form.
“We have decided today that our preference in terms of an external body to give some validation…is CARICOM,” Alexander stated.
Gunraj said that an approach is expected to be made very shortly to CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin La Rocque.
The CARICOM Chair and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley had expressed disappointment when the last plan for the recount was cut short, and said that it is clear there are forces who do not want to see the votes counted.
Given the obstruction to the previous recount, Gunraj said that GECOM would have to give the team some level of finality, including when the recount would begin, to have them come back.
As for all of the observers, Gunraj said that they will have to give indications about whether they will return, given the implications of prevailing issues, such as COVID-19. The Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Carter Centre have already indicated that they are committed to observing the remainder of the electoral process.
Otherwise, the Commission’s meeting yesterday involved giving clarity to Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield on its intentions for the recount. He had asked for clarity before he embarked on his production of a plan.
Gunraj said that core issues discussed included the exact conduct of the process, the extent to which it could be carried out, the role of the Commission in resolution of disputes arising out of the process, and the reporting mechanism. He said that there is a proposal on the table to have region four returning officer Clairmont Mingo replaced.
Gunraj explained that the proposal also considers other staffers who “led us to this position that we’re in”.
The actions of several GECOM officials, especially Mingo, have cast doubt on GECOM’s integrity. Calls have been made for them to be removed.
But Alexander said that it is unclear whether returning officers will be used at all, since Lowenfield has some amount of flexibility in making the determination of the inclusion of staff.
At the end of the discussion, Lowenfield indicated that he had the clarity needed to draft a plan, Gunraj said.
The plan is expected to come up for discussion tomorrow morning.
Gunraj said he is happy that GECOM has finally come to a point where it could produce a plan and to get the process “on the road” so as to assuage the anxiety of the Guyanese public.
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