Carter Center can re-apply to enter Guyana but must adhere to COVID-19 requirements – Harmon

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Chief Executive Officer of the national COVID-19 Task Force, Joseph Harmon says the Carter Center observer team can reapply to enter Guyana and observe the recount of votes but they must adhere and satisfy the COVID-19 process in place.

“What we’re saying is that there was a process which had to be followed and that is what we insisted on, nothing other than that.”

He said the team can still apply to enter Guyana and “go through the right process and so on, we have nothing to hide.”

This process, Harmon explained, includes being tested in their home country and equipped with a certificate that is valid for seven days; if they are unable to be tested prior, then upon landing in Guyana, they will be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

The COVID-19 Task Force, headed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, denied the international observers permission to enter Guyana on a chartered flight which landed in Guyana on May 4 to repatriate U.S citizens stuck here.

Harmon, who is also the campaign manager for the incumbent APNU+AFC, told reporters outside the Arthur Chung Conference Center Saturday, that the COVID-19 task force was informed at the “last minute” that the Carter Center team wanted to board the flight.

“The aircraft came to pick up people from Guyana. The aircraft came with a crew….and the crew had to satisfy our COVID arrangements here.

“The application was made for an aircraft to come and then at the last minute, we were advised that the Carter Center team would be on the aircraft. We didn’t say ‘take them off’, we didn’t say that they should come. We didn’t say anything like that.

“What we learnt is that when the aircraft arrived here, they were not on the flight,” Harmon explained.

He added, “What we said to the Carter Center is that we were in a COVID environment and that we could not basically just allow for an aircraft to come here which did not qualify under the conditions of the COVID arrangements; that is what we said.”

The decision of the Task Force to deny the observer team permission has received scathing criticism from civil society groups who accused the Government of being unfair.

But Harmon emphasised that the Government is “open to scrutiny” and has nothing to hide.

“Let me make this pellucid, we have absolutely nothing against the Carter Center,” Harmon told reporters, noting that the observer group has been playing its part in Guyana’s elections for decades and have “always done an excellent job.”

He believes the three-member CARICOM team that is here scrutinizing the process will add to the credibility of the results.

“What we have are people in that room who are working on a daily basis to ensure that the results of these elections can be verified by a group of persons who have the respect of all Guyana and that is the CARICOM team that’s here,” Harmon lamented.

The U.S. Embassy in Georgetown had clarified that it sought permission via official channels, for observers of the Carter Center to board a flight to Guyana.

The Embassy said it sent the Diplomatic Note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 29 seeking permission for flights on May 4, 2020, and May 30, 2020.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the official Government agency that responds to such requests.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs sits on the National COVID-19 Task Force, which is responsible for granting approval for special flights to enter or leave Guyana as ports are closed as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Carter Center first played a key role in the historic 1992 elections in Guyana and has observed every election since then.

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