Home Letters Open letter to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Dear Congressman Jeffries,
Subject: Remarks attributed to you regarding the US position on opposing fraudulent ballot count in Guyana’s March 2, 2020 Regional and National Elections
Greetings! We, the executive and members of New York Guyana Democracy Project (NYGDP) that comprises some members in your congressional district take note of your remarks in a virtual (web) interview with Rickford Burke, a Guyana Government political activist residing in Brooklyn, in which he issued a statement attributed to you condemning the US position on promoting credible and transparent elections in Guyana.
We do not know if you have been able to check the veracity of Burke’s release relating to this interview. We believe that it’s important that you fact-check the relevant information as some of the contents are very misleading, mischievous, and propagandistic. This could put you on a collision course with pro-democracy activists and international observers as well as with US and other western diplomats in Guyana.
We note you have indicated a readiness to assail the US Administration for advocating credible and transparent elections and for warning that a departure could lead to serious consequences against those engaged in electoral fraud in Guyana. We thought you, like other democratic colleagues in Congress, are a defender of democracy and would adopt a strong position to protect electoral rights of the Guyanese as well as other peoples elsewhere. As you may know, the de facto Government has adopted a position to undermine the democratic choice of the people. Burke’s political party, APNU, has put the country in a prolonged constitutional crisis since elections were held on March 2, 2020. That was preceded by another major constitutional crisis when the APNU Government failed to step down from Government within 3 months after the successful passage of a No-Confidence Motion (NCM) against it on December 18, 2018.
We recognise that your ascent to high office means that you are an accomplished person and one who can separate facts from fiction and political propaganda. Here are some facts as obtained from US reports on Guyana. The US has been involved in Guyana’s politics for decades. It was responsible for putting Burke’s party in office in 1964 after the toppling of a democratically elected PPP Government that constitutes the opposition today. Burke’s party institutionalised a de facto one-party dictatorship (1966 to 1992) and was subsequently pressured by the US into restoring democratic governance, including free and fair elections in 1992.
In 2015, Burke’s party won the Regional and General Elections by a small margin of 4500 votes. In 2020, Guyanese have become more sensitive to their democratic rights and the increasing role of the State in their lives and livelihood. Guyanese turned out (73 per cent) to vote and look forward to a new beginning. The Statements of Poll (SoPs) clearly show that the PPP/C won the 2020 elections by a wide margin of 17,000 votes. (Please see examples of poll results below). All the regions’ votes, except Region Four, were tabulated and accepted. Region Four, the last to be tabulated, was where a blatant attempt was made by GECOM’S Clairmont Mingo to depart from the legal process and begin to announce figures from a fictitious spreadsheet and not from the statutory SoPs.
The western diplomats, including the US Ambassador, international observers including The Carter Center, Caricom, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the OAS condemned the fraud in the tabulation process. This universal condemnation has irked Burke, who sought you out for an interview with the expectation for you to issue a statement, criticising the statements of the US Ambassador and the State Department about their warning of sanctions should the process continue to be tainted with fraud.
The people of Guyana welcome the involvement of the diplomats, the US Administration, international organisations and governments in the protection of democracy, including the people’s voting rights. Surely, you would have no problem with the people’s right to their votes and to choose a Government of their choice in free and fair elections. We thought that we should bring this important issue to your attention. Earlier, Guyana’s apex court, the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice), ruled that the Government was defeated in a “No-Confidence Motion” (NCM) and that they must demit office within three months. Instead, the Government called elections after 18 months following the passage of the NCM on December 18, 2018. This was in clear defiance of our democratic values.
Very importantly, in last January a high-level delegation of members of Congress under the leadership of Chairman Albion Sires, of the Foreign Affairs Western Affairs Hemispheric Sub-Committee, that included your New York colleagues Yvette Clarke and Gregory Meeks, met with President Granger and the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo. Both leaders agreed to honour credible and transparent elections. Sadly, it seems thus far that the President has failed to deliver on his commitment to the members of Congress.
Just for the record, the original Statements of Poll in Guyana’s elections in the custody of all political parties and observers show that the PPP/C won the elections. The APNU claims that it also won the elections but has failed to release or publicise their (identical with the PPP/C’s) copies of the SoPs to support their claim to victory. Currently, the APNU party is taking every step to frustrate the ongoing recount and audit of the votes at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre. This recount of ballots will be validated by a high-level Caricom team that is monitoring the process. So far, the Statements of Recount (SoRs) correspond to the vote tabulation of the original SoPs and support the PPP/C’s claim to victory.
Given the APNU (PNC) background in rigging elections (from 1966 thru 1992) that is known internationally, and now with its efforts to block accredited observers, how can any reasonable person not believe that something sinister is likely to happen? Guyanese are very apprehensive at this point. This is the main reason (rigging) why observers have been invited to monitor this and past elections since 1992. Sadly though, the APNU party has found it convenient to block accredited observers from reputable institutions like The Carter Center to participate as observers in the ongoing recount.
We hold the view that Burke and others would like to see the US, western diplomats and observers disengage themselves from the recount process. The APNU members are afraid that any further attempt that they make to rig the recount would be quickly exposed and condemned both locally and internationally by these observers.
The US Ambassador and the State Department, as well as the diplomats of other countries and the Prime Ministers of the Caribbean region, have stood firm in defence of democracy, and they do not support Burke’s party for obstructing an agreement for a recount of the ballots agreed to by APNU’s David Granger and PPP/C’s Bharrat Jagdeo. Western diplomats have only asked that there be credible and transparent elections. This attitude by diplomats is not different from the positions taken for previous elections in 2011 and 2015, when the APNU not only applauded but also embraced them. APNU won the 2015 elections. Diplomats calling for credible and transparent elections merely reflect what the APNU leader, the PPP/C leader, and other political leaders have been advocating. This is not interference. It’s good diplomacy.
Burke is involved in a propaganda campaign of disinformation to sully the US reputation as a neutral observer in defence of democracy. We suggest you should not allow your good office and/or your reputation as a man of principles, to become tarnished. Perhaps it would be prudent if your office could also call for credible and transparent election results in Guyana!
The New York Guyana