See below full letter written by the Private Sector Commission to the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
March 31, 2020
Mr Paulo Abrao
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F St NW
United States of America
Dear Executive Secretary,
We, the undersigned representing a wide cross section of civil society and private sector organizations in Guyana, are committed to maintain democracy and the rule of law, including free and fair elections and the entitlement of all citizens to human and political rights free of discrimination of any kind. We are also strong supporters of the principles and values established in the Charter of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, especially Articles 1 to 3 which state:
“Article 1 The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. Democracy is essential for the social, political, and economic development of the peoples of the Americas. Article 2 The effective exercise of representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law and of the constitutional regimes of the member states of the Organization of American States. Representative democracy is strengthened and deepened by permanent, ethical, and responsible participation of the citizenry within a legal framework conforming to the respective constitutional order. Article 3 Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections”.
The values, principles and rights set out in the Charter of the OAS and the Inter-American Democratic Charter have never been more pertinent and relevant to Guyana which is teetering on the brink of their abandonment with grave consequences for the country. At the request of the Government of Guyana, and with the agreement of all political parties, the OAS sent an Electoral Mission to observe the general elections on March 2nd, 2020. The Mission was headed by a distinguished former Head of Government of Jamaica, Mr Bruce Golding. The Mission was unable to complete its task fully because at this time, 25 days later, and after the elections process has been announced deeply flawed by all international, region and local observers, no result has yet been stated.
Indeed, on March 13th, the several international observer missions, including the European Union, the Commonwealth and The Carter Center issued the following statement:
“The international election observation missions in Guyana are deeply concerned about the continued lack of transparency in the ascertainment of results for Region 4. The order of the Honourable Chief Justice on 11 March was not followed. The tabulation process did not resume on 12 March as mandated by the court. When the tabulation process was resumed on 13 March, it was not in line with the judgement, which required public tabulation as a safeguard and a measure for promoting transparency and accountability. The Chief Justice reasserted today that the actual Statements of Poll have to be displayed in this process.
The orders issued with the judgement should be complied with, and the tabulation process conducted and concluded accordingly. Unless and until this is done in Region 4, the election results cannot be considered credible”.
The OAS Electoral Mission, in a separate statement on March 13th, 2020 also declared that: “The process being conducted by the Returning Officer for Region 4 to ascertain the results of the national and regional elections held on March 2 does not meet the required standard of fairness and transparency”. The statement continued: “The legitimacy of any government that is installed in these circumstances will be open to question. This would be a terrible blow to the country’s democracy. The people of Guyana do not deserve this. Given the circumstances cited above, the OAS Electoral Observation Mission regrets that it has no option but to withdraw from Guyana. The Chief of Mission will prepare his report for submission to the Secretary General”.
Despite this, the orders issued with the Chief Justice’s judgement have been ignored and a filibustering process has been launched, tying-up the urgent issue in further court proceedings initiated by a candidate of the APNU-AFC political party which formed the previous government. It is significant that the latest court proceedings were instituted by the APNU-AFC candidate in defiance of an agreement between President David Granger, the leaders of APNU-AFC, the leader of the Opposition Bharat Jagdeo, and five Caribbean Heads of Government led by the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Mia Mottley, in her capacity as Chair in office of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
As Prime Minister Mottley explained in a public statement on 18 March, 2020, “This step forward had been anchored by an Aide Memoire signed by both leaders on 16 March 2020, and the Terms of Reference prepared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to govern the role of the High Level Team on Sunday, 15 March 2020, for the supervision of the recounting of the ballots, not only in Region 4, but in all 10 electoral districts”.
However, a court order, sought by an elections candidate of APNU-AFC as described above, was issued on 17 March 2020, granted an injunction restraining the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from recounting any ballots of the General and Regional Elections of 2 March 2020, and set aside “any agreement between the President of Guyana and the Leader of the Opposition and or any agreement between the Guyana Elections Commission and the Caribbean Community”. The CARICOM high-level team was forced to leave Guyana on 18th March 2020. Significantly, the Chair-in-Office of CARICOM publicly stated: “It is clear that there are forces that do not want to see the votes recounted for whatever reason. Any Government which is sworn in without a credible and fully transparent vote count process would lack legitimacy”.
We make the following observations for your information:
As indicated clearly in the reports and public statements by Electoral Observer Missions, the refusal of GECOM to utilize the Statements of Poll (SoPs) to declare the results for District 4 has brought into question the credibility of the official results tabulated by the Chief Elections Officer;
The electoral process for the other nine (9) regions was executed in compliance with the electoral laws and those results are not in dispute.
Continued appeals by Guyanese at home and abroad for President Granger and the Chair of GECOM, Claudette Singh, to take steps to resolve the issue by conducting the recount of Region 4 have fallen on deaf ears. Amid all this, Guyana is confronting a second crisis with corona virus which without a government in place, the country cannot effectively address.
In all these circumstances, we urge you, Executive Secretary, to bring this petition urgently to the attention of the Commission to consider the situation in Guyana and to take action that would cause the general elections to be tabulated fairly and under international supervision. We fear that Guyana is on the brink of a political disaster with very grave consequences including social upheaval. We plead for the swift assistance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to act to avert a situation that could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
Capt. Gerry Gouveia, AA
Chairman – Private Sector Commission of Guyana
Georgetown Chamber of Commerce
Bartica Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Berbice Chamber of Commerce
Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce
Guyana Region 3 Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Linden Chamber of Commerce
Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Air Craft Owners Association of Guyana
Forest Products Association of Guyana
Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association Inc.
Guycraft Producers Association
Guyana Association of Bankers
Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association
Guyana Association of Private Security Organisation
Institute of Private Enterprise and Development
National Air Transport association
National Aquaculture Association of Guyana
Shipping Association of Guyana
The Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana
Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association
The Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry Ltd
Muslim Youth Organization of Guyana
Inter Religious Organisation of Guyana
Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana
Guyana Islamic Trust
Central Islamic Organisation