…Caricom observer team no longer arriving today
…Chairperson reviewing options for live stream
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) met on Wednesday for almost four hours, but was still unable to decide on a start date for the national recount, although one GECOM Commissioner was hopeful it could start within two days of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) high-level team’s arrival.
This was revealed at the conclusion of a meeting on Wednesday with the Commissioners and Secretariat. According to GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander, they cannot make a decision on a start date until the Caricom team’s actual arrival. The team was scheduled to arrive today as was announced by the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF). However, Guyana Times was told that the team would no longer arrive today and a date for their arrival has not yet been set.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Sase Gunraj explained that GECOM Chairperson, Retired Judge Claudette Singh remains in favour of a live streaming of the exercise. As such, he said that the position from Wednesday’s meeting was that the Chairperson will review what GECOM’s options were for a livestream.
“The Chair raised an issue that was brought to our attention by one of the accredited local observers – identifying an agency that is competent and willing to do the livestream free of charge,” Gunraj explained.
“The last time, I did indicate that even though on the face of it the Chairman voted against live-streaming of the entire process, there were aspects she was in favour of. The end position of today, in relation to live-streaming, is that the Chairman with her own preferences, will consider the technical aspects of it and determine which aspect of (live-streaming) she will want to implement.”
Almost every stakeholder involved in the elections had signalled their support for live-streaming of the national recount on the basis that it would have boosted public confidence in the process and made it easier for the results to be accepted by all parties.
Justice Singh herself, in her written submissions to the High Court, had highlighted the importance of GECOM and the electoral process enjoying public confidence so that the election results would be accepted by all.
Recount hours extended
Another development is that the hours for the recount have been extended by one hour. It will now be conducted from 08:00h to 19:00h. Gunraj pointed out that this was significant, since the number of hours worked, duration per box, and number of work stations would ultimately determine how long the recount, set to last 25 days, would take.
“The fact that one of these parameters is now being adjusted, ought to redound to the benefit of reduction of the number of days (for the recount),” Gunraj explained.
It is approaching two months since Guyana held its elections on March 2, but a credible winner is yet to be declared. The Caricom high-level team was invited by the Commission’s Chairperson to take part in the observing of the recount of the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
On Monday, Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque informed the Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), caretaker Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, of the team’s impending arrival in the country.
When the team comes, it will be its second attempt to lend expertise to resolve Guyana’s electoral crisis. After two declarations from Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo which lacked transparency, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger had agreed back in March to have Caricom oversee the recount in a deal brokered by Caricom Chair, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
The first high-level team that came was made up of its Chair, former Attorney General and Foreign Affairs Minister of Dominica, Francine Baron; former Finance Minister of Grenada, Anthony Boatswain; Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cynthia Barrow-Giles; Chief Electoral Officer of Barbados, Angela Taylor and Chief Elections Officer of Trinidad and Tobago, Fern Narcis-Scope.
But before the recount even got started, delay tactics by GECOM allowed A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) candidate Ulita Moore to go to the courts seeking an injunction against the recount. The granting of this injunction forced the previous Caricom team of observers to leave. Following their departure, PM Mottley had lamented that there were “forces” in Guyana who did not want the recount to happen.
The decision by Caricom to again field a delegation to Guyana as part of the country’s electoral process comes on the heels of an earlier decision by Nagamootoo, as Chair of the NCTF, to subject Caricom and any foreign observer to a mandatory 14-day quarantine on their arrival in Guyana.
That decision had led to widespread public outcry and a subsequent intervention by ‘caretaker President’ Granger, to instead have the officials be tested for COVID-19 in their home countries before leaving for Guyana.