Guyana prez declines to criticize CARICOM colleagues over elections impasse

Guyana's President David Granger.

Guyana President David Granger on Monday declined to criticize his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterparts over the disputed March 2 elections, saying that “it’s premature for anybody to make a declaration” in the impasse.

“Nobody has won, nobody has lost; I will not criticize Prime Minister Mottley,” said Granger in an exclusive interview with Caribbean Life, referring to Barbados’s Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, the current chairman of CARICOM.

“I know the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. (Keith) Rowley, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Dr. Ralph Gonsalves) made statements,” he added. “We’re colleagues, we’re friends; they were here (in Georgetown, Guyana), and they have the best interest of Guyana.”

The Guyana president also said that he has “tremendous respect” for Mottley, who, along with four regional Heads, visited Guyana in March amid the disputed elections.

Mottley, last Wednesday, told reporters in Barbados that “many of us have observed with great sadness what has been transpiring in Guyana.

“It is more than 100 days since the people of Guyana went to the polls. And yet there is no declared result,” she said. “From the very beginning, we have been clear and said consistently that every vote must count and every vote must be made to count in a fair and transparent way.”

But she added that, “regrettably, we have seen a level of gamesmanship that has left much to be desired and has definitely not portrayed our Caribbean region in the best light.

“This is definitely not our finest hour, and we must not shy away from that reality,” said the CARICOM chair, adding that CARICOM “is concerned at reports that the chief elections officer has submitted a report to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which is contrary to the directions given by the Commission and which does not reflect the results of the recount process as certified by the very staff of the Guyana Elections Commission and witnessed by representatives of the political parties.”

But when pressed on Saturday about criticisms levelled at her for her remarks, by certain sections of Guyana, including Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Mottley told a news conference: “The truth hurts.”

“The truth hurts; I have nothing more to say,” she said. “But what we must never do in CARICOM is avoid the truth and avoid our principles, thank you very much and have a pleasant day.”

Two weeks ago, in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview, Nagamootoo described as “malicious” Gonsalves’s statement on the Guyana elections, stating that it was made to “prejudice the recount process.”

“For the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to suggest how the recount should be treated is very disappointing to me,” Nagamootoo said.

“It gives me a personal hurt for Ralph (Gonsalves) to make a statement about the election process, particularly with him becoming the incoming chair of CARICOM,” he added.

Speaking, earlier this month, on a program on the state-owned NBC Radio St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Gonsalves said: “We expect the CARICOM observer mission to deliver its report, and we expect that the recount would be honored and the Guyana Elections Commission would declare the winner, in accordance with this recount.

“Anybody who wants to challenge anything afterwards can go to court, but you have to declare the winner in accordance with the recount,” the Vincentian leader said.

“St. Vincent and the Grenadines stands firmly for democracy and reflecting the will of the people. That will tell you where we are. I don’t have to say anything straight and plain. CARICOM is not going to tolerate anybody stealing an election,” he added, stating that he is aware that a number of opposition parties, when they lose an election, make a number of complaints.

“It is almost a boring repetition. We get the reports, follow the law and who win, win,” Gonsalves continued. “When you take part in an election there is always a chance that you may lose, and if you lose …you take your licks like a man.”

But, in an interview on the “Straight Up Live” radio talk program in Guyana, Granger had characterized as “premature” and “reckless” statements made by regional leaders and others on the elections in Guyana, stating that all should wait on the announcement of the results from GECOM before making prejudicial remarks.

In the Caribbean Life interview on Monday, the Guyanese president reiterated that it was “premature to speak of the outcome of the process,” pointing out that the process “calls for four parts, including the validity of the votes.

“Some observers feel it’s just recounting, but it has to be validated, followed by a report,” he said. “It’s premature for any declaration before the three stages are completed. No declaration has been made.

“This is 119 days, 17 weeks exactly from the time of participating in the general elections,” he added. “The sequence is logical – no rules have been broken.

“I don’t want to advise my (CARICOM) colleagues — all five of them were here,” Granger continued. “I will just ask that they wait on the chairman (of GECOM) and ask them to have patience. Only the chairman (Claudette Singh) can make a declaration. She has enormous powers, and I’m satisfied with her ability. I’m confident GECOM will be able to complete its work and make a declaration.”

As part of the verification process, Granger said “numerous abnormalities and anomalies have come to light.

“It came to my attention that ballots were cast for people who were dead or living overseas; some ballot boxes were opened with no supporting documentation,” he said. “What is happening is that the chief elections officer has been able to observe the abnormalities. The question under the law is the validity of the votes — not the totality of the votes.

“The criticism levelled at my government is misplaced,” the president declared. “I can’t accept the criticism. It’s a legitimate process. I have full confidence in the Commission.”

The main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) claimed it has won the elections, based on the recount that ended on June 9.

But Granger’s ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), maintained that there were too many anomalies and irregularities, and wanted the polls annulled.

The Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s highest court, last Wednesday issued an order that would continue to put on hold the Court of Appeal ruling regarding the disputed elections.

The CCJ will, this Wednesday, begin hearing arguments about whether it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal filed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali, in relation to the Court of Appeal ruling.

Granger posited that the CCJ “don’t have jurisdiction (to hear the appeal), and the ruling of the Court of Appeals will stand.

“I’m very confident that the effort of the Coalition will result in our favor,” he affirmed. “But let me say, the elections will be close, but I don’t expect a landslide.”

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