Taking Power in Guyana

PPP/C must seize the day

by James Tweedie

Guyanese caretaker president David Granger still refuses to admit defeat in elections almost four months ago. But the winning People’s Progressive Party/Civic seems reluctant to force a transition of power, despite the support of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

Last week the GECOM chair, former justice Claudette Singh, finally declared the PPP/C and its president-elect Dr Irfaan Ali the winners on the basis of a recount held weeks after the March 2 election.

In doing so she rejected Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield’s ‘summary of observations report’ that sought to invalidate some 60 per cent of the 460,000 ballots cast.

Lowenfield’s report backed debunked claims of voter fraud by officials from the APNU+AFC coalition that is dominated by Granger’s People’s National Congress party.

Granger’s victory over sitting PPP/C president Donald Ramotar in 2015 was marred by vote-rigging allegations, and that the PNC used ballot fraud and emergency powers to hold onto power from 1968 to 1992.

Following Singh’s ruling, APNU promptly switched tack from claiming fraud to ensuring last Thursday’s GECOM meeting to declare the result would be inquorate.

Two of the three government-nominated commission members failed to attend the meeting without explanation. For the commission to be quorate, two members appointed by the president and two by the opposition must be present. Lowenfield also failed to attend and report the final vote tally as he is required to.

However, article 226 of the constitution states that if the meeting is still inquorate after being adjourned for two days, on the third day it can go ahead without that quorum. But legal moves prevented that from happening.

That same Thursday, a motion was heard at the Court of Appeal on behalf of Eslyn David, a resident of the Sophia district of the capital Georgetown, to prevent GECOM from declaring the result.

Dr Ali called Ms David an “APNU proxy”, while the pro-PPP/C iNews Guyana said she was an APNU “supporter.” Whether she is or not, the court has since ruled that it has jurisdiction over the matter, which APNU+AFC celebrated.

On Monday the appeals court interpreted section 177 (2) (b) of the Guyanese constitution to mean that the party with the most “valid” votes shall be declared the winner – resurrecting the vote-rigging claim yet again.

The PPP/C then appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the judicial arm of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) regional bloc of English-speaking nations.

CARICOM’s outgoing and incoming Chairpersons, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Ralph Gonsalves, PM of St Vincent and the Grenadines, have both urged Granger to accept defeat.

But yesterday the CCJ restrained GECOM from declaring the result until a second hearing set for July 1 – four months on from polling day.

This reversal of fortune at the hands of the CCJ’s panel of judges highlights the perils of going to court for that which is rightfully yours in the first place – it might just hand it over to those trying to rob you.

Guyana’s neighbour Venezuela has made a similar gamble with stakes of £800 million pounds of national gold reserves held by the Bank of England.

The UK government effectively seized the bullion as part of its support – alongside the EU and US – for opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s baseless claim to the presidency over elected socilaist President Nícolas Maduro.

The Central Bank of Venezuela went to the High Court in London this week, not to demand the return of its rightful property but for them to be transferred to the UN Development Fund to buy “healthcare equipment, medicines and basic foodstuffs” for the South American nation.

The Bank of England’s case is that it is “caught in the middle” between the legitimate Venezuelan authorities and Guaidó’s “ad hoc” board. But who’s to say the High Court won’t just hand the fortune over to Guaidó’s gang of putschists in Washington?

The PPP/C, the movement that led Guyana to independence in the 1950s and 60s, won the election fair and square. The Washington-based Organisation of American States said yesterday GECOM already has “a result based on the valid votes cast” and “this election has gone on long enough.”

Yet both hesitate to act decisively and end this crisis that threatens to return their country to the bad old days.

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