Home Top Stories “We do not want post-election violence” – Harmon tells Carter Center
Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, on Wednesday met with representatives of the Carter Center who are in Guyana as part of the contingent of international observers for the upcoming General and Regional Elections.
The team was headed by International Election Observation Mission Field Office Director Carlos Valenzuela, and included Legal Analyst Anne Marlborough, and Deputy Field Office Director Nicholas Jahr.
Valenzuela informed Director General Harmon that the team is making its rounds and has met with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), and the Government and will soon be meeting with the political parties. He added that more members of the Carter Center is expected in Guyana soon and will conduct more meetings to understand political views on the elections preparations, electoral process and challenges and issues, if any, that they may have with the Commission or the process.
Harmon, who welcomed the team’s presence in Guyana, said that as far as the Government is concerned, elections are part of a democratic process and development of the country is based on the country’s ability to have free, fair and credible elections.
In this regard, he, therefore, noted that “the Government has done all that is humanly possible over the past year to have the Elections Commission adequately equipped and provided with all the necessary resources, without any interference from Government to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are held.”
The Director General noted that while some persons seek to cast aspersions on the work of the Commission, the Government is confident that it can and will deliver a credible process to the people of Guyana.
“We have depended on GECOM to regulate themselves without giving any directions and we have provided all the resources that they need to carry out their work. We are most confident that the Commission can deliver free, fair and credible elections,” he noted.
Harmon further noted that it is the Government’s hope that the elections results can be declared in a timely and efficient manner according to the prescriptions of the law, so that the nation’s business can continue as soon as possible after the elections.
On the question of post-election violence, the Director General said Government is hopeful that this will not take place since there is no place for such violence in the country Guyana is becoming.
“There is too much going for Guyana right now, too much positive developments for us to return to that place. Any post-elections violence will take us back decades and we don’t want that. We do not subscribe to it. We have too much to lose as a country if we go back to that abyss,” he said.
Meanwhile, Valenzuela said the team is not here to find faults in the Commission or to criticise anyone but rather, the aim is to ensure confidence-building in the citizenry and to ensure they are confident in the results that would emerge at the end of the process.
Guyana has previously faced criticism over delayed elections, despite a No-Confidence Vote being passed on December 21, 2018. Last year, several countries and organisations expressed concern over the lack of an election date. After much pressure both locally and internationally, President David Granger named March 2 as E-Day.
But while Granger did name March 2, 2020, as the date for elections, the Constitution of Guyana stipulates that elections must be held within three months of the passage of No Confidence Motion.
Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution states, respectively: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.” And “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.”
The No-Confidence Motion was passed against the Government since December 2018. After failing to overturn the motion at the parliamentary level the next month, the Government then embarked on a series of court cases in which it argued, among other things, that 33 was not the majority of 65 but rather, 34. Those arguments too have been thrown out by the Caribbean Court of Justice. The CCJ subsequently ordered that elections be held as stipulated by the Constitution. The CCJ decision was given on June 18, 2019, and paved the way for elections. In keeping with the constitutional three-month provision, this means General and Regional Elections should be held on or before September 18, 2019. That too was not done by the seating caretaker Government.