Dear Distinguished Caricom Observer Team: Messrs Cynthia Barrow-Giles, John Jarvis and Sylvester King.
Most Guyanese would join me in welcoming you to Guyana and in wishing your Team every success in your observation of the recount. It is not necessary, but for the public benefit I take this opportunity to refer to your mandate. It is set out in the Aide Memoire signed by President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on March 16, under which you are “to supervise the recount of the ballots….as a matter of urgency.” The “supervising” is qualified by the Aide Memoire which provides that you would “operate within the framework of the Constitution, the applicable law, the role of GECOM and the rulings of the Court.” The ruling of Chief Justice (ag) George of March 13, 2020, is specifically mentioned. That decision confirmed that the Statements of Poll are the source documents for the votes obtained by contesting political parties. The Aide Memoire further provided that the Terms of Reference for the Team would be prepared by GECOM; the recount would be for all ballots for regions 1 to 10 and would take place urgently; that the recount would be done under the auspices of GECOM; and that the team “would not engage in the actual counting of ballots” but “their presence is to ensure that the recount is done in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner.”
Emphasising the role and mandate of your Team, the Chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, issued a statement upon your departure for Guyana which stated in part: “The Community calls on all concerned to ensure a credible and transparent recount process, in order to provide legitimacy to any government which would be sworn in as a result. This process must be completed without further delay.”
For background, you should appreciate that this is not the first time that CARICOM has come to the assistance of Guyana. As if making up for its silence from 1968 to 1985 when Guyana was the victim of repeated, rigged elections, by its then PNC governments, it intervened in 1998 after the PNC unleashed sustained post-elections violence, not for the first or last time. Part of the terms of the Herdmanston Accord signed by the PPP and PNC was a forensic audit of the ballots. The CARICOM team, headed by retired Justice Ulric Cross found no evidence of fraud, although the elections were later vitiated by then Justice Claudette Singh on the ground that the requirement for a voter ID card was unconstitutional. Rigged elections are part of our distant past and the allegations of such are part of our continuing present. All elections since 1992 have been adjudged as free and fair by foreign and local observers.
You should also appreciate CARICOM’s role in this new era after the end of the Cold War. With the rise of human rights and democratic norms and standards, including free and fair elections, as recognized pursuits in international relations and treaties, CARICOM is now prepared to act. And it could not have succeeded so far without the patient and persistent, resourceful but silent, and carefully conducted, diplomatic effort and support of Guyana’s friends inside and outside of Guyana. With CARICOM’s new role, Guyana’s politicians are learning that they can no longer tamper with our elections process. And hopefully the PPP will understand that its deep, abiding and publicly expressed, hostility to the diplomatic community in the past, and ill-considered foreign policy initiatives of the past if it gets into government and continued, will bring it no friends.
Your undertaking the recount is supported by all the other political parties that contested the elections, along with the governing APNU+AFC and Opposition PPP. It is safe to say, therefore, that you have the goodwill of all Guyana. I trust that those who are in control of your comfort, health, security and the means to conduct your observation process will ensure that these are adequately provided. While the vast majority of Guyanese wish you success in your undertaking, I would not be honest if I did not express the fears of many that there are some who do not want to see the recount completed and will make every effort during the process to frustrate it. You have had that experience already when Ulita Moore’s case, vainly challenging CARICOM’s role, aborted the earlier effort to recount. Many believe that the forces behind Ulita Moore are alive and well and still lurking in the background, preparing to pounce again.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has engaged in lengthy and painstaking discussions to arrive at decisions as to how the counting process should proceed. You will no doubt be disappointed to learn that the Chair rejected the live streaming of the recount. Many experienced lawyers and diplomats have supported it and the Chair is reconsidering her position. You would not be overstepping your mandate to ensure credibility if you persuade the Chair to allow live streaming which will bring the recounting process into the homes of every Guyanese and would be the ultimate in transparency and credibility. I thank you in anticipation for your service to Guyana.