U.S. visa sanctions ‘an arrow’ against those occupying the political crease –CARICOM Chair
By Ravin Singh
The restrictions on visas by the United States (U.S) against those involved in undermining Guyana’s democracy is but the initial stage in a heavier assault which could follow.
“There is no room really for shenanigans. Everybody in the world is seeing that some clique is seeking to hijack the elections and hijack the country,” Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Chair of CARICOM, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, U.S Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo announced that the State Department has imposed visa restrictions on top officials – which includes government Ministers and the hierarchy of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
According to Gonsalves, the visa restrictions could be just the beginning of what could follow.
“This (visa sanctions) might be just an arrow across the bow of those who are still in occupation at the political crease,” Dr. Gonsalves said during an interview on Jamaica’s The Edge 105FM with host Richie B.
The visa restrictions follows the APNU+AFC’s refusal to accept its defeat at the polls, as reflected in the national recount of votes. Those results show that the PPP has beaten the Coalition by more than 15,000 votes.
“It is for GECOM to declare the results. But every time there is a forward movement, there is always something trying to put a fly in the ointment,” the Vincentian PM said, in obvious reference to the Coalition’s multiple attempt, either by its Commissioners at GECOM or through court action, in preventing a declaration in keeping with the certified results of the recount.
It was just last week that the country’s final court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), ruled that a declaration of the winner of the polls should be made from the figures produced by the recount.
But even this ruling the APNU+AFC sought to distort, by suggesting that the Court ruled that the recount could not have been legally executed since the Order under which it was operationalized was in conflict with the Country’s constitution.
But this was not the case, and Dr. Gonsalves recognized that.
“…the CCJ pronounced with clarity. I read the judgement over and over and the CCJ addressed, to my mind, all the issues.
“Unless you are the type of person (who would) look in the fields of St. Catherine and you see a brown cow grazing in the fields and you insist that it is not a cow, it’s a calf, and that it is not a brown cow, it’s a white cow with black spots.
“What do we do with some persons who do that?”
The PM, who played a crucial part in brokering a deal for a CARICOM team to scrutinize the recount, informed listeners that “all observers” are satisfied that what needs to be done is that the results needs to be declared in accordance with the recount.
He has more than once called on President David Granger to take his licks like a man.
“I am PM now since 2001.
“…if you come here (the official residence of the Prime Minister) any time before the polls open on Election Day, I will not have a toothbrush belonging to me in the official residence.
“Everything belonging to me I move out. On the night the results are declared, and declared that I am winning again, I move in back with my toothbrush and a suit to be sworn in.
“I can’t assume that I am going to be returned. The people might decide to kick my butt,” Gonsalves quipped.
There have been five attempts by senior officials of GECOM to hand the APNU+AFC a victory based on fraudulent numbers.
In March, Returning Officer (RO) for Region four, Clairmont Mingo, inflated numbers during the tabulation exercise to give the Coalition a victory on two occasions, but these were exposed.
This triggered a national recount of votes which, upon completion, showed that the PPP had 15,416 more votes than the Coalition.
However, the country’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield attempted to first invalidate over 275,000 votes, and in a second attempt, 115,000 votes – most of which belonged to the PPP – to give the Coalition victory.
After being given clear instructions to compile a final report based on the verified numbers from the national recount, Lowenfield then presented numbers which mirrored those of Mingo, again seeking to hand the coalition a victory.
But those numbers were immediately rejected and set aside by the Chair of GECOM, (rtd) Justice Claudette Singh, who, for a fourth time, instructed the CEO to compile his report in keeping with her earlier request and in compliance with an order from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Before this could be done, a supporter of the APNU+AFC moved to the High Court asking it to compel GECOM to make its declaration based on the fraudulent numbers and not on those certified during the recount.
The APNU+AFC had also mounted unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, going as far as to call for the elections to be nullified – an act which only the High Court is legally empowered to do.
Gonsalves said those aggrieved must file an elections petition after the results are declared.