Former President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has charged Guyana’s political leaders to reconcile from a turbulent and protracted electoral process and put Guyana above party interests.
Sirleaf made these comments in a live address broadcast by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).
A member of Nelson Mandela’s Elders Group, Sirleaf said that there has been much satisfaction with the progress the country has made, and that that should continue with the country moving forward on a democratic path.
She noted that the recount results have been certified by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Guyana’s other regional partners as credible and reflective of the will of the people. Those results show that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) has won the general election, with a clear lead of 15,416 valid votes.
To the incoming President, Sirleaf urged that person to be the President of all people, and added that that person’s government must include everyone to ensure the fullest cooperation to achieve the government’s vision and goals.
Her statement follows a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which paves a way for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to declare the results of the recount.
Sirleaf said that now is the time for Guyana to continue to consolidate the progress in the past decade.
“This is the time to consolidate the progress,” she stated, “to see democracy that you have earned on a firmer footing, and that means reconciliation. That means cooperation. That means getting together and looking at the situation, and see Guyana as bigger than any particular party, any particular group, and any particular person.”
“Please rise to the cause of upliftment of your own country, to the preservation of peace and stability and solidarity that your country deserves.”
She explained that she had been victim to a situation in which the will of the people were not allowed to be announced following an election, and that the effect on the people was devastating. This is likely in reference to Liberia’s disputed 1985 elections, in which the incumbent had been declared the winner.
When the will of the people is not respected, Sirleaf explained, “you cannot control events that would follow because those who conclude that their vote has not been respected will show resistance.”
Guyana’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, had presented a report to the Elections Commission which sought to unilaterally invalidate 115,000 votes in a move to grant a false victory to the APNU+AFC coalition. That report has been invalidated by the CCJ, as it found that he acted unlawfully.
If the people’s will is not reflected, Sirleaf said that there could be resistance in the form of protest, transcending into dissatisfaction and disillusion.
“It transcends into people feeling my future has been taken away from me because my vote has not been allowed, and you’re dealing here with the majority of the people. It’s a recipe for disaster. And what can happen is that if that protest is not properly managed by the State, by the authorities, and it gets out of hand because there’s counteraction to repress the protest, to contain it, then it ends up on the streets; that could easily lead to serious conflict. And conflict has serious consequences.”
The disputed 1985 election of Liberia had led to years of conflict, then civil war.
Sirleaf said that her country faced such a situation for many years, and that the aftermath of the protest and repression was the destruction of the country.
In addition, she warned that dysfunction in Guyana could result in external forces entering to take control and penetrate the workings of government – “then the state loses total control of the management of its resources…”
In light of these warnings, Sirleaf appealed to the people of Guyana not to let the situation digress into violence and destruction.
“Those of you who are continuing to call for calm, to call for peace, to call for rationality in consideration in these matters, are to be commended… Those of us on the outside that have been promoting all the efforts that Guyana has been making, must also continue our work. Continue to send these messages of hope, these messages to the Guyanese people, to please do not destroy the progress that your country has made so much with your hard work and dedication and patriotism, you’ve given so much to your country in the last decade to bring it to where it is.”
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