Gonsalves' statement on Guyana recount in order, says Arthur

The head of the Commonwealth Group that observed the disputed March 2 regional and general election in Guyana, Owen Arthur, has defended the statements made by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves regarding the outcome of the recount of ballots in the elections.

Gonsalves, speaking on a radio programme in Kingstown, said he remains satisfied that the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping “will not stand by idly and watch the recount which is properly done for the results to be set aside”.

Both the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National unity (APNU) headed by President David Granger and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) headed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo have claimed victory.

The PPP/C said that the recount has shown that it won the election by more than 15 000 votes, while the APNU has claimed that a number of irregularities and anomalies took place during the voting exercise and has called on GECOM to make a statement on the matter.

“We expect the CARICOM observer mission to deliver its report and we expect that what is the recount would be honoured and the Guyana Elections Commission would honour that recount and declare the winner in accordance with this recount,” Gonsalves told radio listeners.

But the APNU said that it is concerned as the incoming chair of CARICOM, Dr. Gonsalves has chosen to pronounce on a process that is still ongoing, and proposes to a direct constitutional body in another CARICOM Member State in the execution of its duties.

APNU+ AFC campaign manager Joseph Harmon, said the coalition finds it “strange and alarming” that Gonsalves would make statements of this nature which closely resembles that of the PPP/C.

But Owner, a former Barbados prime minister, told the Guyana-based News Room media outlet that the statement by Gonsalves “is perfectly in order and is exactly what is expected”.

He said Caribbean countries including Guyana have signed a Charter for Civil Society “which enjoins upon them the responsibility to have free and fair elections.

“It would therefore be entirely contrary to the provisions of the Charter for Civil Society for CARICOM to stand by if an election if an election is being stolen and therefore Mr Gonsalves was only speaking within the context of the spirit and letter of the Charter of Civil Society when he made the statement that he made.”

Owen said the statements by Harmon and the APNU is putting President David Granger in a position “where I believe it would be very difficult for them to be able Io engage in fellowship of goodwill with other people in the Caribbean”.

“The vitriolic attack on other leaders is really in a way putting Guyana in a condition where it appears to have itself by people who are out of order. Mr. Harmon cannot be allowed to indulge his appetite to be attacking leaders,” said Arthur, adding if there is an issue at the level of leaders, “one would expect that leaders of the Caribbean would have to be spoken to with respect”.

He said it would be for President Granger and not Harmon to be speaking to regional leaders and that the head of state should remind Harmon of that responsibility.

“I don’t think Ralph Gonsalves should feel in any way, first of all, intimidated or having to cower because that seems to be the intention,” Arthur said, adding “there is a Charter of Civil Society under which Guyana has signed to bind itself to the free and fair elections and Gonsalves is calling for Guyana to respect that Charter of Civil Society that holds us together as a community”.

The Commonwealth Observer Group in its interim report had said it is the clear that the tabulation processes, conducted by the Returning Officer for Region 4, were not credible, transparent and inclusive. (CMC)

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