“Ballot boxes are our last string of hope” – persons watching ballot boxes
…PPP urges persons to safeguard against COVID-19
A group of Guyanese has been continuously keeping watch of the containers which have the ballot boxes from the March 2, 2020 elections, that are being stored at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Head Office in Kingston, Georgetown.
These persons have set up camps at the corner of Cowan and Fort Streets, Kingston, Georgetown, as well as at Cowan and High Streets, Kingston. They are out there all day and night, using a shift system for different groups.
On Tuesday Guyana Times visited the area and spoke with the persons on the day shift. One such person, Asif Mohamed, told Guyana Times that on March 2, Guyanese exercised their franchise and it is their democratic right to have those votes counted in a credible and transparent manner as was done in the other nine districts in Guyana.
He noted that they are at a loss as to why there are delays in the recounting process.
After the Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, went ahead and declared discredited results, which many of the parties that contested the elections said was marred with fraud, the Chairperson of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, intervened and fielded a five-member high-level regional team to supervise a national recount that was requested by President David Granger and agreed to by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
However, that regional team was forced to withdraw from Guyana after an injunction was obtained by APNU/AFC candidate, Ulita Moore, blocking GECOM from conducting the recount. That interim injunction is currently being heard in the High Court, thus putting a hold on the recounting process.
As such, all of the containers with the ballot boxes were taken back to GECOM Headquarters and while one representative from each party is allowed inside the compound to watch over the containers, Mohamed insisted that extra vigilance needs to be taken.
He went on to point out that this step to guard the containers is much more required since the events that played out after the March 2 polling day has resulted in a decrease in confidence of the Elections Commission.
Nevertheless, Mohamed posited that while it is not easy being out there day in and day out since many of them have jobs and families at home, the sacrifice now is worth it rather than having to suffer in the long run.
“You might be suffering a little now but losing this would mean suffering, and your children’s children would be suffering for decades to come. So I think this sacrifice, even though it’s hard, it’s worthwhile. I would do it and stay here to the end… We are committed to the end to ensure our votes are counted. That is all we are asking for. Let our votes be counted,” he maintained.
Meanwhile, another person, who was also camped outside GECOM, Cedrick Castello related to this newspaper that it is the duty of every Guyanese to ensure that the integrity of the ballots is preserved and that Guyana continues to be a country that rules on the rule of law.
“I am acutely disappointed at the way things have turned out. It has seemed that there was a flouting of the law that amounts to the abuse of the intelligence of the citizens of this country and in particular, the members of the opposition [parties] and the foreign observers, who were invited to see that the elections and the elections process is well done… We know it is embedded in the Constitution of this country, the way the elections should be run, even the way the votes should be tabulated and the verification processes involved. Because there was an abortion from that and a direct deliberate departure from it, we know that something was terribly wrong there,” he asserted.
On the other hand, Linden Jemmott, who is also on ‘container watch’ duties said that he just wants to see the truth come out from this entire process so that the country, which is at a standstill, can continue to progress. Jemmott, who is a sculptor, lamented on the fact that business has been slow and almost non-existent since the start of the year. He noted that it’s not just with him but even the stores and commercial businesses have had similar complaints.
“Mr Granger is tightening the noose around our necks, I don’t know if he knows it. But if he should operate according to the slogan that he used for the elections: ‘honesty and integrity, transparency’ – this is what we’re hoping to achieve. We are holding Mr Granger right now to his own words. We’re nailing him to his word. We are demanding honesty from him and integrity. If he was honest with himself and he knew that he won that election, he would have shown us the figures… So why can’t he display a ticket to show us the numbers and the tickets, in this case, are the SoPs, which are the legal documents that would verify that he won the elections? Why he cannot show that…,” Jemmott insisted.
However, even as these persons are committed to continue keeping watch of the ballot containers until a recount is done, concerns have been raised over their public gathering with the coronavirus pandemic. Guyana has confirmed five cases to date with one death and authorities have advised against large gatherings.
But according to Mohamed, they are taking every precaution they can in their situation. He noted that businesses have donated sanitisers and other disinfectants, which they are using to protect themselves.
Safeguard against COVID-19
Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), while cognisant of the support to protect the integrity of the ballot boxes, on Tuesday urged that not more than 25 persons gather there at any given time.
Instead, the party is advising persons interested in supporting the initiative to visit its headquarters – Freedom House on Robb Street, Georgetown, so that they can be scheduled with the teams that are deployed to keep watch of the containers.