Govt used COVID-19 Regulations to suppress free speech

…break up protest against Carter Center’s de facto ban
…arrest 3 despite all restrictions observed

Scores of protestors staged a protest in front of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, calling on the caretaker A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government to allow The Carter Center to return to observe the national elections recount.
Displaying placards, the group of picketers voiced their wanton dissatisfaction with the rejection of The Carter Center for the second time by the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) along with the caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister, Karen Cummings.
At the protestor line, Peter Ramsaroop elucidated that allowing The Carter Center back into Guyana will provide a free, fair, and transparent recount while noting that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) should decide whether or not the observers should be allowed back.
“Granger said he is not involved in directing GECOM what to do. The fact is GECOM requested The Carter Center since they are a part of the elections process in Guyana from March 2 onwards to the recount is going on and The Carter Center has a right to be here and Mr Granger said he is not involved but guess what? He is directing the show,” Ramsaroop asserted.
Another protestor, former Minister Jennifer Westford expressed her displeasure and disgust with the caretaker Government refusing entry of the election watchdog, noting that something is “amiss” and Guyanese will remain vigilant.
“All of our democratic rights are being trampled upon by this Government [which] seems to have no intention of giving up. We are hoping that at the end of this recount, they get out of there. They should have been gone a long time ago. But I am scared that the fact they are refusing for The Carter Center to come back here, there is something amiss,” Westford posited.
Given that the coalition would have been claiming victory based on the fraudulent declaration of the Region Four, (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, former Education Minister and Attorney-at-Law Priya Manickchand, another protestor, stated that The Carter Center, which has been a trusted organization, should be allowed for greater scrutiny of the process.
“This is Guyana objecting and protesting the Granger’s Administration refusal to allow for scrutiny of the National Recount. It is very clear that there is a refusal to accept the will of the people in this country. If you believe people voted for you and you are going to form the next Government then allow for the recount process to happen without all of the massive petty delaying tactics and allow for international bodies who were accredited and remain accredited,” Manickchand explained.
Another protestor lamented the fact that Government is using the COVID 19 regulations that were implement via an ordience to suppress the free speech of Guyanese.
Three of the protestors were arrested by ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) who claimed that the protestors breached the Public Health Ordinance in relation to COVID-19. They have since been released on $20,000 station bail each.

General Secretary of the PPP/C, Bharrat Jagdeo on Saturday contended that the protestors were adhering to all the safety protocols, such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The police came and said it is illegal and they called Volda Lawrence. So Volda Lawrence is saying what is legal and what is illegal but we will persist and will not allow this issue to go away because we are concerned that although things are going well at the Convention Center so far, that they may, when the Caricom team is inadequate to cover all the station, to spring something,” Jagdeo stated during a virtual press conference on Saturday.
Earlier this month, The Carter Center had revealed that they were hoping to return to Guyana to conclude their observation of the 2020 elections by monitoring the recount exercise, but they did not get the necessary permission from the Guyana Government to come on a scheduled flight to Guyana, which was chartered to repatriate US citizens stranded here.
Last Saturday, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NCTF, Joseph Harmon had denied his Government had blocked the team from returning and stated that The Carter Center can reapply for permission to return to Guyana.
On Wednesday, United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah- Ann Lynch disclosed that her office and The Carter Center had made a second request for the Guyana Government to allow the organisation’s Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) as well as advisors from the International Republican Institute (IRI) to return to Georgetown to monitor the ongoing recount of ballots cast in the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
However, on Friday, caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Karen Cummings, in a letter dated May 15, 2020, in response to the request, rejected the permission for the team to complete the observation of the recount. (Shemar Alleyne)