‘CARICOM will not tolerate the stealing of an election’ –Incoming Chairman 

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By Ravin Singh

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is likely to take a tough stance against any of its member-states which attempt to commit electoral fraud, the group’s incoming chairman has said, urging that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) declare the winner of the March 2 elections as shown by the national vote recount.

The recount shows that the PPP won the elections by over 15,000 votes.

“…straight and plain, CARICOM is not going to tolerate anybody stealing an election,” Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines said Wednesday on a radio programme. He will assume chairmanship of the 15-nation regional trade and integration bloc next month.

“When you take part in an election, there is always a chance that you will lose, and if you lose, as Sir [Arthur] Lewis said ‘take your licks like a man’,” he declared during an interview on NCB radio in St Vincent.

With the CARICOM team which scrutinised the elections expected to deliver its report on the recount in the coming days, the incoming chair has urged GECOM to use those results to declare a winner since they are deemed to have been credibly produced.

“We expect the CARICOM observer mission to deliver its report and we expect that what is the recount would be honoured and the Guyana Elections Commission will honour that recount and declare the winner in accordance with this recount and anybody who then wants to challenge anything afterwards can go to court,” Gonsalves said.

The CARICOM scrutineering team comprises Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Ms Cynthia Barrow-Giles; Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission, Mr John Jarvis; and SVG Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Mr Sylvester King.

The APNU+AFC is accused of allegedly conspiring with agents from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to rig the March 2 General and Regional Elections.

In a recently-concluded recount which shows the PPP winning by more than 15,000 votes, it was discovered that the Returning Officer (RO) for Region 4 inflated the votes for the APNU+AFC by more than 19,000, and deflated the PPP’s vote by more than 3000 in his attempt to hand the Coalition a slim victory.

Mingo did this twice, on March 4 and again on March 13, and the APNU+AFC had celebrated.

But after Mingo’s declarations were challenged in the courts and an agreement for a recount had been brokered, an APNU+AFC candidate moved to the courts to have it blocked, but was unsuccessful.

Gonsalves had formed part of a four-member CARICOM Head-of-Government team which travelled to Guyana to broker the deal for the recount.

After the APNU+AFC candidate attempted to block it, Chair of CARICOM and PM of Barbados, Mia Mottley had contended that “…there are forced that do not want to see the votes recounted for whatever reason,” and CARICOM was forced to recall a high-level team it had sent to supervise that recount.

Speaking on behalf of the regional bloc, PM Mottley had also said that “any Government which is sworn in without a credible and fully transparent vote count process would lack legitimacy”.

CARICOM subsequently dispatched a second team and when the recount did commence, the APNU+AFC embarked on a campaign aimed at discrediting the elections by alleging that dead people and persons who were out of the country on Elections Day had voted.

On that basis, the APNU+AFC wants the elections nullified.

But Gonsalves, a seasoned politician who is in his fourth term as PM, knows about these allegations too well.

“I know…anybody when they lose -they say so and so thief so and so thing. It is almost a boring repetition…,” Gonsalves stated.

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