Panellists for CoI into Guyana’s election fiasco could come from regional, int’l bodies – President Ali
President Dr Irfaan Ali has reaffirmed his intention to launch a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the events which unfolded during and after the March 2 General and Regional Elections, with a view of having those persons who attempted to derail the process and undermine democracy held accountable.
According to the Head of State, the CoI is likely to be comprised of individuals from both regional and international organisations. He made this disclosure during an interview on Jamaica’s televised programme, “The Conversation”.
President Ali explained that while he has tremendous respect for the national human asset, the region has always been Guyana’s “first call.”
“Definitely I think the region would have to play a part, but we have also gotten requests from many of the international organisations – OAS, Commonwealth and so on…these are all organisations that played a key role [in fighting for Guyana’s democracy].”
“So, between the OAS, Commonwealth and Caricom, I think we will have a great opportunity to determine a good panel to look at the CoI,” President Ali said.
He reiterated that: “We must have an international CoI into what took place during those elections and after those elections, because people have to be held accountable…you have to be held accountable for your actions, and your actions caused tremendous harm to the people of Guyana and to our country.”
Meanwhile, President Ali also reaffirmed his Government’s position on initiating the process of constitutional and electoral reform within the country and he assured that the entire reform process will be driven by a method of wide consultation.
“You will not see a President who will say; this is what we are going to do. Of course, I have my ideas on what should be done, but the final product has to come through a consultative mechanism and machinery that involves the citizens of the country,” President Ali stated.
He explained, however, that “before we get to reform, there are many questions that have to be answered. We must have an international CoI into what took place during those elections and after. I believe too that people have to be held accountable.”
President Ali also explained that, while there needs to be an investigation into the workings of the Guyana Elections Commission itself, there must also be a thorough examination of what transpired within this machinery.
“What took place goes beyond the Commission, to the machinery itself, the technical and professional aspects that make up the secretariat of GECOM. You had senior staff who were supposed to work and act independently. Those persons found themselves highly compromised. That is the difference here. The Commission is one issue; that is why I said in a recent interview even in the public service, persons have to decide whether you want to be a public servant, a technocrat or whether you want to be in politics,” President Ali explained.
He also assured that, even while this process is being undertaken, his Government’s development plans for Guyana will not be derailed.
President Ali added, “I am not going to allow this to affect the functioning of my Government. We have a country to run. We had to bring an emergency budget for the last four months. We are now working on that budget and moving on some important transformative projects to create employment, to open up the economy, strengthen growth and broaden the portfolio of economic progress. Whilst we are working on that (CoI), we are simultaneously working on these things. As you are aware, there is a criminal investigation going on now into GECOM. Some charges have already been laid, and we are also working very shortly to engage the international community and Caricom itself on the CoI.”
The protracted electoral process, since the March 2 polls, has been marred by a series of litigations and a National Recount had to be conducted to ascertain the valid votes cast. The results from the 33-day exercise showed the PPP/C with a landslide victory, having obtained 233,336 votes while its main political rival, the APNU/AFC obtained 217,920 votes – a difference of 15,416 votes.
The then David Granger regime had repeatedly refused to concede defeat and allow for a peaceful transition of power. In fact, the unprecedented situation attracted widespread international attention, with the US Government announcing visa sanctions against officials who were undermining democracy in Guyana.
Already, the Guyana Police Force has launched a criminal investigation into allegations of electoral fraud and top GECOM officials have already been arrested and charged, including Returning Officer for Region Four Clairmont Mingo. Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield was recently arrested for questioning but he was subsequently released on bail. (G11)