…accepts flights can be authorized but disclaims responsibility
Caretaker President David Granger is seemingly the one who is responsible for the denial of the Carter Center’s return to Guyana.
Caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Karen Cummings, in a letter to the United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, asked that measures put in place to protect from the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) be respected.
The letter dated May 06, 2020, was written on behalf of Granger and in response to the Ambassador’s request to facilitate the arrival of Observers from the Carter Center. The permission was sought so that the elections watchdog could complete observing the March 02 General and Regional Elections.
“The Government of Guyana requests that its measures to protect its citizens from disease are respected. The Government is proud of its record of democratic governance in the recent past,” the letter stated.
As part of the Government’s COVID-19 response, all international airports, i.e the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Eugene F Correira International Airport, are closed to inbound international flights except for outgoing flights, cargo planes, aircraft requesting fuel stops and specially authorised flights.
The National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) has the power, to approve the landing of aircraft with inbound passengers. As a matter of fact, a high level team from CARICOM was granted special permission to enter the country to observe the ongoing national recount of the ballots cast in the March 02 elections.
On Saturday, Chief Executive Officer of the NCTF, Joseph Harmon denied not approving the Carter Center’s request and noted that they can still re-apply to come.
Since the closure of Guyana’s borders, the US Embassy here has secured special permission from the COVID-19 Task Force for relief flights to repatriate its citizens.
As such, The Carter Center along with representatives from the International Republican Institute (IRI), which had provided technical support to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) during the elections, were hoping to secure permission from the Guyana Government to return to Georgetown on an Eastern Airlines relief flight that was scheduled for Monday last.
However, this permission was not granted and the flight arrived at the CJIA empty.
The Carter Center in a statement said it “…deployed an observer to Miami who was prepared to travel to Georgetown [Monday], but unfortunately, his flight was denied approval to carry international election observers.”
Nevertheless, the Center said it will continue to reach out to Guyanese Government officials to understand what is required to allow its observers to return to Guyana to witness the recount process.
The Carter Center, along with all other foreign Observer Missions, have deemed the voting process to be free, fair and transparent. However, they questioned the conduct of Returning Officer for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Clairmont Mingo, after he made declarations without following the established protocols. Those declarations were challenged in the Courts and eventually set aside.
The Carter Center is among five foreign organisations that were accredited to observe the March elections. However, all the observation missions left Guyana following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak but were still monitoring the situation here.
There has since been mounting calls including from the United States and Canadian Governments as well as the United Nations for The Carter Center to be allowed to return to Guyana for the national recount.
These calls were made by the acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State, Michael Kozak; Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas at Global Affairs Canada, Michael Grant, and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana, Mikiko Tanaka.
Additionally, while the European Union and the Organisation of American States (OAS) have used representatives on the ground for the recount, they too have joined calls for the return of The Carter Center.
See the contents of the letter below: