Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley on Monday described Guyana’s Court of Appeal ruling as “disturbing” after it found that a CARICOM supervision of a recount of all votes cast on March 2 will be illegal.
The Court of Appeal on Sunday ruled that the responsibility is on GECOM to supervise the elections to ensure fairness and impartiality.
But Dr Rowley, during a press conference in Trinidad and Tobago Monday, made it clear that CARICOM’s role is not to be involved in the actual counting of the ballots.
“I find that ruling quite disturbing because the ruling was that the actions of CARICOM would deem to be illegal, that finding of a court must be of concern to every member of CARICOM because it would be predicated on an understanding that CARICOM had done something that a court has found to be illegal and I want you to separate that from the actions of individuals within the context of the political environment of Guyana and the political leaders,” the T&T Prime Minister said.
At the invitation of President David Granger, a team of Caribbean Prime Ministers, including Dr Rowley, led by CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley visited Guyana last month to broker an agreement between President Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for a CARICOM team to supervise that recount.
That agreement resulted in the signing of an aide-memoire which details CARICOM’s role.
Dr Rowley spoke about the details.
“The aide-memoire was signed between the leader of the opposing party the PPP the leader of the governing party the APNU and those leaders were Mr David Granger and Bharrat Jagdeo and of course the third signature to that document was the secretary-general of CARICOM and I think that was some opportunity for misrepresentation and that opportunity was seized upon.
“In the document, in the original paragraphs, its speaks loosely to CARICOM being invited by these two leaders who are the contestants in Guyana, it speaks loosely about supervising the fair conduct in counting their votes where the understanding there was that CARICOM using its imprimatur stature would be there see them do what they are supposed to do.
“The high-level team would supervise the recount under the auspices of GECOM and would not engage themselves on the actual counting of ballots, their presence is to ensure that the recount is done in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner, meaning scrutiny.
“It specifically says that CARICOM will not engage themselves in the actual counting of ballots but because the word supervise was used in the sentence before it was an understanding that you will be there to see what they do.”
Dr Rowley said he has a “problem” with the court deeming CARICOM’s action as illegal, however, he noted that CARICOM will await the outcome of developments at GECOM and is ready to assist Guyana once a request is made.
“Once a CARICOM presence is requested, that presence should be provided but in this case we are recommending that that presence be provided by the same technical team that was there before.
“This means that CARICOM will be present in the form of expertise from technical people and do not provide an opportunity for this kind of interpretation to happen again.”
Currently, the Chairman of GECOM Justice (rt) Claudette Singh is meeting with Commissioners to discuss the way forward for a national recount of votes.