By Ray Chickrie
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – On April 7, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo again called on Guyana to undertake a nationwide recount of the March 2 general election which has been marred by accusations of electoral irregularities and lack of verification from local and international observers. The matter has been going back and forth in the courts in Guyana for the past month.
In a series of back and forth challenges, the issue was held up at the courts for a month. The court blocked a recount which was approved by the leaders of Guyana for CARICOM to “scrutinize” the process according to Dr Keith Rowley, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. An injunction was filed by the APNU- AFC ruling party candidate, candidate Ulita Grace Moore. The opposition appealed the matter at the High Court of Guyana; Chief Justice of Guyana, Roxane George, nixed that injunction and paved the way for a recount and eventually, on Sunday, the court allowed the recount to proceed.
On March 17, when the recount collapsed, Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley, chairwomen of CARICOM said, it is, “clear that there are forces” in Guyana “that do not want to see the votes recounted for whatever reason”.
US Secretary of State Pompeo in his daily briefing on April 7 again brought up the Guyana election stalemate, said: ”I’d also like to commend Guyana’s High Court for clearing the way for a nationwide recount of that country’s recent national elections as well. We look forward to working with their elections commission and the international observer community to ensure that that process is free and fair, transparent, and credible”.
Besides, March 17, Pompeo had this to say about the Guyana election: “The United States is closely monitoring the tabulation of votes in Guyana … we join the OAS Commonwealth, EU, CARICOM and other democratic partners who are calling for an accurate count. We commend CARICOM’s role in seeking a swift democratic resolution and it is important to note that the individuals who seek to benefit from electoral fraud and form illegitimate governments/regimes will be subject to a variety of serious consequences from the United States”.
Observers complained of harassment and threat to their safety. And it is alleged that the foreign minister of Guyana, Karen Cummings, apparently expressed to observers that their observers’ status could be revoked.
In a heated exchange between the head of the Commonwealth observer mission, former Barbados prime minister Owen Arthur may perhaps be heard telling the Guyanese minister – “What I heard was a threat”, while showing her his accreditation identification badge. She responded, “No I wouldn’t do that. It comes across as intimidation, you are trying to intimidate the observers when you speak about taking away an accreditation,” one person, with a foreign accent, was heard saying in the background according to a Stabroek News report.
“I am just happy that you are here … let’s leave in good spirits, some of you I am seeing for the first time and just keep on doing what you are doing,” Cummings added. Some of the observers were seen leaving the room.
Several calls not to install a president on a “count that was not verified” came from the United States, the Commonwealth, the OAS, France, the UK, India, and Pompeo have been issued. And after weeks of insinuated threats of sanctions, “isolation and consequences” from the ABC/EU countries and multi-lateral groups like the OAS, CARICOM, Commonwealth and ACP, the foreign minister of Guyana, Karen Cummings issued a press statement on March 28.
“Guyana protested and reminded the international community that it’s a “Sovereign” State.” She added on behalf of her government, “The foreign ministry noted that “the electoral process is not yet completed and no declaration has been made by GECOM” and the APNU+AFC government remains in charge until a new government is sworn in. The APNU+AFC coalition government remains in place until a successor would have been declared and sworn in in its stead,” the government said.”
The government position has always been, “The Supreme Court has been approached and has intervened; its rulings, which are still being awaited, will be respected in accordance with the Constitution and Laws of Guyana,” the foreign ministry statement reads.
On April 2, US ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch, said: “Such statements are not foreign interference, they amount to good diplomacy by members of the hemisphere’s democratic club. My hope and expectation is that Guyana maintains its good standing as a member of this club by counting all the election day votes through a transparent and credible process. Guyana is certainly not Venezuela; let’s keep it that way.”
Relations have been tense since the election. US Assistant Secretary of State, Michael Kozak summoned ambassador Rudy Insanally on March 26. On his Twitter feed, Kozak said: “I summoned #Guyana Ambassador to the US Riyad Insanally to convey our firm position that any government sworn in based on flawed election results would not be legitimate. Every vote must be counted”.
On April 8, GECOM left many wondering if this election confusion will come to an end said, “Though cognizant that the 156 days proposed for the activity may be quite a lengthy duration in the present circumstance, the Secretariat had to consider matters of law in relation to the procedures to conduct a recount; approved decisions of the Commission and the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting the health situation of the population.”
During the Cold War, the US payed little attention to democracy in Guyana. After the Cold War ended with the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States moved to support the return to democracy in Guyana in the 1992 general election. Fast forward, today, Guyana has one of the largest oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere and ExxonMobil has invested billions of dollars in Guyana after discovering over 16 oil discoveries.