A month has now gone by without Guyanese being given a definitive answer on the results of the General Elections of March 2. After more than a year of struggling to get that election scheduled, the reaction of the populace to the delay has become just another marker of our fractured politics: each side pointing fingers at the other.
This is rather remarkable since, supposedly learning from the past, steps had been scrupulously taken to ensure the counting of the less than half-a-million votes would be done promptly, transparently, and accurately.
One would assume, therefore, that since these steps were all designed to ensure transparency in the count, there would be no need for the political divide to be reflected in evaluating very simple counting tasks performed in front of a host of persons. The theory was that “seeing is believing”.
But Guyana has just conclusively disproved that theory: seeing, we now see, is what the PNC wants you to see. Transparency is in the eyes of the PNC.
At the base of what was a pyramidical cross-checking structure were the 2300 polling stations where, after the close of poll, the individual ballots placed in a box by the voters were counted and allocated to the contesting parties in front of agents of the said political parties. These totals were summarised in a “Statement of Poll” (SOP), a copy of which was then placed in the “ballot box” and others distributed as specified by law. Amazingly, there were no disputes at this step, which had been resisted for decades by the PNC, because, as one of their leaders insisted, “it would pose logistical nightmares”. One copy of the SOP from each box was posted in front of the Polling Place, for all and sundry to view how their community had voted.
Going up the pyramid, all the ballot boxes from each region – accompanied by the SOPs – were taken to ten Counting Stations, where a Returning Officer (RO) was supposed to tabulate the votes as summarised on the SOPs.
In the past, there had even been bloodshed in the transportation of the ballot boxes to these counting locations when party agents had attempted to accompany them to ensure that no ballot boxes “fell off the truck”.
This time, there were absolutely no hitches in the transportation exercise; no complaints from any “side”; no shootings, and no ruckus.
The next step of tabulating the SOPs, to obtain the distribution of the votes among the contesting parties regionally, went quite smoothly in nine of the regions where the Returning Officers made their declarations. The process was simple in theory and practice: the RO would hold up his copy of the individual SOP – or project it on a screen – and each party representative would compare the numbers with his/her copy, and any discrepancy would be dealt with there and then. There were recounts requested in three Regions the next day, and these were dealt with without any great fuss. No protests, fights or ruckus, much less shootings. The great exception, however, occurred in Region 4, which is our largest region by far and includes Georgetown, stronghold of the PNC. And this is where all hell broke loose to such an extent that we are still dealing with the explosion.
What happened in Reg 4? It is no secret because it took place in front of dozens of International Observers, Diplomats, party officials and others. The RO, one Clairmont Mingo, after tabulating more than half of the 879 SOPs to everyone’s satisfaction in the approved manner, suddenly launched a number of subterfuges clearly designed to delay the completion of the tabulation.
But to cut a long story short, after resumption of the exercise, Mingo absolutely refused to transparently display the remaining SOPs in his possession so they could be compared to those in possession by other parties’ counting agents.
And this is where we arrive at the phenomenon that is still baffling me: that supporters of the APNU/AFC could still try to deny what their eyes saw so very clearly. The foreign observers and the diplomats have unanimously declared that Mingo’s SOPs were never subsequently displayed clearly, yet this has not moved the PNC supporters and leaders. And we have leaders of the coalition declaring with straight faces to the nation and to the Courts that what everyone but they saw was an illusion.
How would we ever be able to take such leaders seriously to move forward?