The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro has declared that “it is undeniable” that the dissonance over the March 2 general elections in Guyana “has gone on long enough”. Almagro is right. And, undoubtedly, he speaks for the entire Caribbean and international community by expressing his exasperation with the process.
Guyana has been known for election rigging, going back to the days of Forbes Burnham, the first leader of the People’s National Congress (PNC), which is the main party in the APNU-AFC coalition that clearly lost the March 2 general elections but which, is overturning every pebble to maintain their grab on power.
The name Clairmonte Mingo has already been carved in infamy in the history of Guyana. It is he, who like the comic strip figure of old, Mandrake the Magician, conjured figures on his sordid spreadsheet to declare APNU-AFC the winner of Region 4 by numbers that allowed it to overtake the People’s Progressive Party lead in eight of the ten voting districts. However much Mandrake Mingo may have gestured hypnotically, he failed miserably to hypnotise the regional and international Election Observer Missions into accepting his voodoo numbers. They all protested vigorously, including former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who threw his observer badge to the ground when the Minister of Foreign Affairs threatened to withdraw the accreditation of all the Observers if they did not kowtow to Mingo’s attempted fraud.
Enter, at this point, five CARICOM Prime Ministers, led by their Chair, Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados. They brokered an agreement between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo with the agreement of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that all the votes would be recounted under the now well-known mantra: “Every vote must be counted, and every vote must count”. Ms Mottley spoke of “dark forces” at work in the elections’ machinery.
The man in charge of the elections’ machinery is now rivalling Mandrake Mingo for infamy. Keith Lowenfield is the Chief Elections Officer who, along with President Granger, on the day of the Guyana elections, proclaimed it to be “free and fair”; in other words, no fraud. All the Elections Observer missions agreed. All that was left was for the votes in each electoral district to be counted and a winner declared. Then, with the PPP/C ahead after nine of the ten districts were counted, Mingo appeared with his magical numbers.
Thereafter, Lowenfield fell in line with the “dark forces” to declare that the elections, of which he was the man-in-charge and which he had pronounced to be “free and fair”, had now become fraudulent. According to him, and without producing one shred of evidence to substantiate his claim, over 260, 000 of the 460, 352 votes cast were either persons who had emerged from the graveyards of Guyana or somehow managed to be “abroad” while presenting themselves, national ID in hand, to vote at the polling stations. He subsequently reduced the number of fraudulent votes without explanation or evidence.
So far, between Mingo and Lowenfield, the officials of GECOM have produced four different sets of figures at different times, not one pairing the other, but none of them matching the total votes as reflected in the statements of poll from each of the electoral districts on March 2. Mandrake and Houdini have raised the standard of election rigging in Guyana to a new and preposterous high.
Meanwhile, a CARICOM team of scrutineers, joined by a team from the OAS, scrutinised a National Recount of all the votes. The exercise began on May 6 and ended on June 8. The CARICOM scrutineers and each of the supervisors of the recount certified that the PPP/C had won the elections by over 15, 500 votes.
The “dark forces” then rushed to the Court of Appeal, where two allegedly faithful judges agreed to by-pass the High Court where election matters are normally heard. This was the third time since March 2 that APNU-AFC agents have gone to the Courts, and twice to the favoured Court of Appeal. Lowenfield was given the opportunity to provide a report to the GECOM Commission, in which he bold-facedly stated, with no evidence, that 115,587 votes were fraudulent, and he gave the elections to the APNU-AFC. The GECOM Commission is yet to pronounce on this extraordinary difference with the scrutinised recount.
This Guyana election has brought shame on Guyana and risks tainting all of CARICOM. The matter has now been taken to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) from which the people of our region expect fairness and justice. I hold no candle for any of the contesting parties in Guyana, but I hold aloft a blazing torch for democracy and the will of the people.
As the Secretary-General of the OAS has said: “GECOM is in possession of a result based on the valid votes cast on March 2, 2020, through a recount exercise that was approved by all stakeholders and a credible result was provided. The process in Guyana must be brought to an end, based on the results of the national recount, and with respect for the will of the majority of the electorate.”
The dark forces in Guyana must not be allowed to contaminate or disgrace other countries in CARICOM that value democracy and free and fair elections. Granger should be told by all CARICOM leaders that all attempts to take the elections have failed and are over; he should go now, put an end to the abuse of the Court system and spare Guyana any further shame.
John Beale is a former Ambassador of Barbados to the US and Permanent Representative to the OAS for seven and a half years and was also a Financial Consultant to the OAS.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.