By Ray Chickrie
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister Dr Keith Rowley said Monday that he has a “problem” with a Guyana court decision that deemed CARICOM’s role in Guyana’s national election impasse as “illegal.” General election was held on March 2 without a declared result. The election has been marred by allegations of irregularities and lack of transparency by international observers.
CARICOM was invited by the government of Guyana and the opposition to overlook a national recount but subsequently was forced to withdraw. The role of CARICOM to “scrutinize” according to prime minister Dr Rowley was brought to court by a member of the ruling party.
During the press briefing today in Port of Spain, prime minister Dr Rowley answering a question from a reporter said, “There was a ruling in the court of Guyana last week, and I find that ruling quite disturbing. It ruled that the actions of CARICOM were deemed to be illegal,” prime minister Dr Rowley added. “Now that the finding of the court must be of concern to every member of CARICOM because it would be predicated on an understanding that CARICOM has done something that a court has found illegal.”
Dr Rowley continued: “Individuals in the political environment of Guyana and the political leaders and parties,” were all members of the CARICOM agreement to recount the ballots. The Trinidadian leader read from the memoir which he said was signed by Guyana’s two political parties, president David Granger, the incumbent of the APNU, Bharrat Jagdeo, the opposition leader of The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the secretary-general of CARICOM.
Dr Rowley argues that there was “misrepresentation” or propaganda one would say, against CARICOM. “There was an opportunity for misrepresentation and that opportunity was seized upon.”
President of Guyana Granger defended the impasse and replied numerous times that “GECOM is an independent authority to conduct elections” and that he will not “interfere with the work of the court and GECOM.”
Dr Rowley’s retort saying, “The two leaders ask CARICOM to come; to see them do what they are supposed to do.” The agreement he said, “States that the high-level team will supervise the recount under the auspices of GECOM and would not engage themselves in the actual counting of ballots. Their presence is to reassure that the recount is done in a free, fair and transparent and credible manner.”
He asserted further, the agreement “specifically says CARICOM will not engage themselves in the actual counting of the ballot. But because the word supervise was used in the sentence before,” referring to the actual agreement, “you will be there to see what they do. And by the time it was argued in the court, the outcome was that CARICOM had acted illegally – and I have a problem with that, ” he said.
CARICOM hasn’t given up on Guyana, Dr Rowley said, “we will await the outcome of the development. Trinidad and Tobago ‘s position given what has happened so far, given the interpretation in and outside the court, if the Guyanese authorities request a CARICOM presence, as they proceed. Going forward counting their ballots, and CARICOM presence is requested, that presence should be provided. But we are recommending there be a presence from that same technical team and there should be no opportunity for this kind of interpretation to happen again.”
However, “We will await the development there,” Dr Rowley said. “I have not heard of any request being made. Guyana election must be of concern to us collectively as CARICOM and Trinidad and Tobago.”