A significant section of the Guyanese population feel aggrieved and many are not feeling welcoming to the Carter Centre given the perception of the unfairness of their actions during the time of the vote count and thereafter. This feeling occurs in a context where many hold the view that there is a tsunami of misrepresentation overclouding a truthful representation of events in Guyana. Today’s article revisits concerns surrounding the Centre’s actions and that of the international and domestic observers all speaking the same narrative. It is a narrative recognised to be emanating from one common source and being multiplied to create the effect of credible individual perspectives based on evidence that is irrefutable and which can withstand legal scrutiny.
Guyana has formed election relationship with Carter Centre since 1992 and enjoyed support to strengthen its democracy and the conduct of elections. As far as one remembers these relations during the time of former President Jimmy Carter were of a different tone and nature. Though not perfect, there was a level of respect one expects of any foreign entity having peaceful bilateral relations with a sovereign nation. Noticeably, the calibre of relationship with the young Carter in 2020 has taken on a level of disrespect unsuited and worse than any previously experienced over the years. It must not be condoned by any Guyanese, all of whom are called upon to put Guyana first and take a collective stand against the crudity of the diplomacy which disrespects our independence and country.
Recently this nation was again hit by a flurry of public lobbying from the diplomatic community surrounding the return of the Centre. This began as a tweet from Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chaterjee on 2nd May stating, “…I hope Guyana will allow them to return to complete their task. @CarterCenter has earned the respect of Guyanese citizens & political parties for decade.” The same tone was then observed in a tweet from USA Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch.
When the Government of Guyana advised last Friday, the Centre would not be allowed to come at this time given COVID-19 and reposing confidence in the CARICOM scrutineers, the High Commissioner tweeted, “…GECOM invited @CarterGuyanaEOM to return. Why doesn’t Govt want them back.” Seemingly gone are the days when premium is placed on quiet diplomacy. This has been replaced by a tweeting diplomacy of intolerance, public shaming, disrespect for the host, insensitivity for another’s culture and values. Such comes across as seeking/stoking confrontation.
Government in rejecting the Centre has demonstrated its right to have a resolution within the framework of the CARICOM community, which allows for: 1). The Community’s intervention/support as is ongoing right now; and 2) Legal resolution right up to the level of the Caribbean Court of Justice. There have however been instances where comments from the international community have conveyed impression that diplomacy be damned, judicial recourse is selective and some have no right to same. Further, we must follow their instructions even when unlawful.
This is noted, particularly with the High Commissioner whose behaviour of interference dates back to the occasion of the no confidence motion of 2018. Not only could her tweets be considered undiplomatic but suggest a ‘stoking of fire,’ wrongfully representing the Laws of Guyana, and ignoring the fact that the Government and /or president has full authority to withdraw their invitation. It is not GECOM’s role to determine who observes. By giving such impression it could be seen as instigating a conflict to serve a need that appears driven by partisan interests.
In a recent interview with Enrico Woolford, the USA Ambassador said she is in good company with her “good diplomacy” and her right to speak out where she sees the need. She excused her “good company” visiting the home and being entertained (wined and dined apparently) with a known opposition financier and alleged unsavoury character.
Thus, some find comfort that the Government has finally decided to draw the line. It was not done by a “feral blast” as delivered by former minister Priya Manickchand of the previous administration to a former U.S Ambassador at that embassy’s function. Nor was it done in a public address made at a GDF Officers Conference by former president Bharrat Jagdeo. The message was delivered via letter, implicitly communicating to the international community Guyana will no longer tolerate the so called “good diplomacy” that has no respect for Guyanese, the Laws of Guyana, and government’s embrace of a legitimate and peaceful recourse to resolve its elections dispute.
International observers should also be made to understand that the welcome they receive is no authority to abuse Guyana’s hospitality. The international community should understand these basic expectations of impartiality are premised on the United Nations Code of Conduct for International Election Observers. Attention is being drawn particularly to the Conduct that speaks to ‘Maintain[ing] Strict Political Impartiality at All Times.’
Said expressly states:- “Observers must maintain strict political impartiality at all times, including leisure time in the host country. They must not express or exhibit any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, political parties, candidates, …or in relation to any contentious issues in the election process. Observers also must not conduct any activity that could be reasonably perceived as favouring or providing partisan gain for any political competitor in the host country…”
That aside, the USA is not without electoral and other controversies that continue to alarm the world. There is an abundance of electoral concerns, violations and unlawfulness in the DNA of this country dating back centuries and existing unto now in many practices. The hypocrisy of those who feign concern for democracy in other nations should cause us all to reflect on the practice of inviting those whose democratic outreaches serve no purpose in guiding that of their own nation.
It is time they practice at home what they teach abroad and remember the world is watching their shortcomings and anti-democratic manouvers to disenfranchise large numbers of voters and communities. Guyana is doing no such thing and GECOM has demonstrated an extraordinary amount of tolerance, bending over backward to satisfy the domestic and international community and to preserve the peace of our nation that some seem not to want.
Noted also, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) both appear to be leading a biased charge. There appear to be serious infringement of the laws, rules and protocol surrounding those specifically identified, that is the OAS Bruce Golding and PSC Gerry Gouveia. The latter is particularly noted to be acting outside of his remit and performing more as an agent of the political party. His duplicity on social media vis-à-vis mainstream media is noted. In retrospect, whereas Guyana accepted the OAS’s involvement, we could have refused Mr. Golding’s participation on the ground of unsuitability and possible partisanship. His actions confirm that he lacks professionalism, integrity and does not have the goodwill of all Guyanese at heart.
The noticeable absence of an independent media monitoring unit has not helped Guyana. Many have taken advantage to spread malicious distortion, fuel flames of distrust, create ethnic tension and lack of trust in constitutional offices, particularly GECOM’s effort to fix an electoral process evidently corrupted by many of their own operatives. It is time for Guyana to exercise some restriction on all observers. They should be reminded of their role. There should be no hesitation to restrict or withdrawn their status if necessary. Guyana has enough independent observers to lend credibility to its process.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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