Will of Guyanese people must be respected – Mandela’s “Elders” group
…urges legitimate swearing-in of President based on recount
The Elders, an international group formed by legendary South African President Nelson Mandela, has become the latest organisation to urge Guyana to follow the democratic process and ensure a legitimate President is sworn in.
The group made this assertion in a brief statement shared via social media on Tuesday. According to them, they have been observing the elections and its aftermath in Guyana and are concerned with the way things have been going.
They cited the specific instance of The Carter Center, which has been barred by the APNU/AFC Government from returning to Guyana to observe the recount. This is despite their election accreditation still being valid. The David Granger led-Administration has used the COVID-19 measures as a blockage to having the democracy watchdog return.
“The Elders continue to view the situation in Guyana with concern, especially the recent barring of the Carter Center Observers,” the group, which includes former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, said.
The group stressed in their statement that the will of the people who voted on March 2 must be respected. This, according to the group, must be done through the swearing-in of a legitimate President based on the recount results.
“The will of the people must be respected through the swearing-in of a legitimate Government,” The Elders said, going on to add that the election of a new Government should be “based on the recount’s results.”
Guyana has been and continues to be, under significant international scrutiny to ensure that elections which were held over three months ago, are concluded in a credible manner.
This pressure has manifested in the international community, revealing that sanctions could be applied if an illegitimate President is sworn in.
Last week, Head of the EU Delegation in Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto said that once the National Elections recount is credibly completed and the results generated accepted, Guyana will avoid being hit with sanctions from the European Union (EU) – which has once again warned that cooperation will be suspended if democracy fails.
Canto expressed that “the best thing I would like to do about sanctions is to prevent them.”
Concerns are being raised about the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition gearing up to reject the results emanating from the recount exercise. They have already been refusing to sign off on the Certificates of Recount for district tabulation for several regions.
But Ambassador Ponz Canto reminded that the current recount is a “window of opportunity” to avoid sanctions.
As recently as a few weeks ago, United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann-Lynch said that while sanctions are on the table if the democratic will of the people is not adhered to, it is an option the United States is hopeful it will not have to use.
Lynch explained that sanctions range in seriousness from targeted measures such as individual visa restrictions to financial measures that could impact the economy.
“You’ve seen some of the statements coming out of Washington. Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo. Assistant Secretary [Michael] Kozak. The National Security Council. They have been very strong. And Secretary Pompeo did point to serious consequences if the democratic process, the rule of law, and the principles of democracy are not followed in Guyana.
It has already been three months of controversy and a credible winner for the March 2 General and Regional Elections is yet to be declared.
After two discredited declarations from Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, which lacked transparency, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and caretaker President David Granger had agreed to have the Caribbean Community (Caricom) oversee the recount.
That agreement was derailed when A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) candidate Ulita Moore moved to the courts and secured an injunction against the exercise.
That injunction was discharged by the Full Court and later, the Full Court’s decision was upheld by the Appeals Court. But by then, the Caricom team had long since left. GECOM re-invited them and the recount started with the understanding that it would last for 25 days.
That timeline has since been extended to a June 13 deadline, with the declaration of results within three days. APNU/AFC has, meanwhile, been pushing for the original declarations, which include Mingo’s inflated recount figures, to be used to declare a winner, rather than the recount figures.
The Elders is an international non-governmental organisation of public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, who were brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
At the launch ceremony, an empty chair was left on stage for Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights activist who was a political prisoner in Burma/Myanmar at the time.
Present at the launch were Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus, and Li Zhaoxing.
Martti Ahtisaari joined The Elders in September 2009, Hina Jilani and Ernesto Zedillo in July 2013, and Ricardo Lagos in June 2016. In June 2017, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also joined the group.
The Elders is, as of November 2018, chaired by Mary Robinson, and consists of eight Elders and five Elders Emeritus. Kofi Annan served as chair from 2013 until his death in 2018; Desmond Tutu served for six years as chair before stepping down in May 2013, and remains an Elder Emeritus.
They describe themselves as “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights”.
The goal Mandela set for the Elders was to use their “almost 1,000 years of collective experience” to work on solutions for seemingly insurmountable problems such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, and poverty, as well as to “use their political independence to help resolve some of the world’s most intractable conflicts”