Guyana will strengthen “pillars of democracy” – Ali
Having recognised the threats to democratic rule, which created a prolonged five-month electoral impasse during the 2020 elections, Guyana has recommitted to ensuring that democracy is upheld in future polls, where the will of the people is clearly reflected.
President Dr Irfaan Ali articulated this position on Friday during his address at the Summit for Democracy, hosted by United States President Joseph Biden. He expressed that democracy cannot be maintained nationally, unless it is sustained internationally.
“The global chain of freedom is only as strong as its weakest link. Democratic enhancement and renewal, therefore, require global effort; one that takes full account of the multidimensional aspects of democracy, including the provision of conditions for economic progress,” Dr Ali has said.
Recollecting the 2020 General and Regional Elections’ fiasco created by the APNU/AFC, and events which followed, the Head of State credited the international community and Guyanese for remaining steadfast in ensuring democracy was upheld. However, Government is also working to safeguard the country at future elections.
“Democracy was delayed, and almost denied. It was only the vigilance of the Guyanese people, supported by a watchful international community, that prevented Guyana from being plunged into a dictatorship, with all its disastrous consequences. This is why the Government of Guyana is fully committed to strengthening the foundations and pillars of democracy, to ensure that, at all times in the future, the will of the electorate is upheld in free, fair, and transparent elections; and that the independence of the judiciary is maintained.”
It was highlighted that adherence to democracy and the rule of law must be aligned with economic and social progress in conditions of non-discrimination, equity, and equal opportunities. That is the course on which Guyana is now firmly embarked domestically.
“We have recently become an oil-and-gas-producing nation, and after decades of being the second poorest nation in the Americas, we are on the cusp of an economic transformation. We are devoted to the ambition of empowering prosperity for every citizen of our country, and to achieving this within a framework of democracy,” the President told the summit.
He added, “After our experience of the repression of freedoms, attempted last year, we are determined to build economic progress and social improvement on the foundation of respect for human and political rights and freedom of expression. And, as we strengthen this foundation of democracy in Guyana, we will similarly champion them abroad. We give that undertaking.”
Calls were also made for nations to acknowledge that autocracy and dictatorships can become pandemics, crossing borders and infecting political processes across the globe, particularly infecting poor and vulnerable countries whose people have little to lose.
“That is why democracy must not be divorced from development. In the global community, each is dependent on the other. This summit must recognise that truth, and act on it,” the President has said.
On March 2, 2020 – with the original counting of the ballots cast having proceeded smoothly and having been completed in nine regions, with the PPP/C in a commanding lead – the tabulation of Statements of Poll (SoPs) was interrupted in District Four (Demerara-Mahaica) after Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo switched from the legal procedure, which ensures transparency, whereby each SoP had to be exhibited to the stakeholders present to enable comparison with their copies. Mingo diverted to a procedure in which the purported numbers from the SoPs were incorporated into a consolidated spreadsheet.
This led to immediate calls for transparency from both local and international observers. This led to the High Court case, when all the parties except APNU/AFC protested the sleight of hand that facilitated an inflation of the votes for that party.
Following the High Court’s decision, Mingo was ordered to revert to the prescribed procedure, but he repeated his subterfuge in another guise, and submitted totals that varied substantially from those of other parties; and had the APNU/AFC ahead, rather than the PPP/C.
The Chairwoman of GECOM, Justice (retd) Claudette Singh, agreed to a recount of the votes, which had been proposed by caretaker President David Granger and agreed to by then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo after an intervention by several Caricom leaders. The PPP/C were later announced victorious, bringing a new administration into power. (G12)