Distorting Democracy: Misleading Narrative Attempts to Twist Facts of Guyana’s 2020 Election

-Article was dedicated to APNU Supporter

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An article appearing in an issue of the Chicago Journal of International Law, written by Amber Symone Stewart, which she dedicated to her mother, a staunch supporter of APNU+AFC, is a blatant attempt to distort the facts surrounding Guyana’s 2020 elections.

It irresponsibly frames the United States as a hegemonic force exerting undue influence over Guyana, rather than acknowledging the legitimate concerns raised by local and international observers about the electoral process.

The narrative conveniently omits the widespread reports of electoral fraud and APNU+AFC government corruption that marred the election, instead suggesting that the U.S. intervention was an unwarranted intrusion.

This portrayal is not only misleading but also undermines the efforts of those striving to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law in Guyana. It is crucial to recognize that the U.S. actions were aligned with the international community’s call for transparency and fairness and were not an arbitrary exercise of power. This article, therefore, should be seen as an attempt to rewrite the events of the 2020 election to fit a biased narrative, rather than an honest analysis of the situation.

Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira has responded to the article. Her comments are below.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira

I have taken note of an undated article “Nah Tek Yuh Mattie Eye Fuh See: U.S. Involvement in the 2020 Guyanese Election” which appeared in the online Chicago Journal of International Law written by a lawyer, Ms. Amber Symone Stewart.

The article attempts to present a rather disingenuous diversionary argument to obfuscate what transpired between the No Confidence Motion in the National Assembly on December 21, 2018, and the declaration of the final national recount results on August 2, 2020, by accusing the U.S.A. of involvement/interference in these elections.

No other election in Guyana has had such massive international, regional and national attention, supported by a wealth of documented evidence, publicly available, including international and regional media coverage. It is therefore shocking that the author ignored the evidence and was more interested in creating an argument, a scapegoat in the ‘US bogeyman’ which in this case had no basis, no merit and was highly irresponsible, especially for a legal professional.

My response to this online article in no way ignores the role of successive US administrations in Guyana’s history, especially in the pre- independence struggle and in the 1970s and 1980s. However, this was not the case in the March 2020 elections.

Indisputably, Guyana once again attained unintentional notoriety on the international stage with the declaration of the national recount results of 400,000 voters five months after the elections – taking the number one place from Gambia in the 2016 elections for the longest time to declare results.

The article itself is poorly constructed and factually flawed. The author manufactures information, dismisses the occurrence of actual events and ignores the evidence presented in courts of law, in order to substantiate the author’s claim of the USA’s involvement and interference in Guyana’s March 2020 elections. Due to the weakness of the arguments, much of which is incoherent or illogical, the case remains unproven.

To claim that Guyana’s democracy was not under threat during the 2020 elections is a blatant misrepresentation of the situation. The author ignores the fact that Guyana Constitution requires that after a successful No Confidence Motion in the National Assembly, an election must be called within 3 months and that the President, and his cabinet should have resigned.

However, President Granger and the APNU+AFC Coalition Government did not resign nor were elections called within three months. In fact, only under extreme pressure was an election date set 14 months after the No confidence Motion!

This issue was litigated through the corridors of the judiciary in Guyana by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic from January 2019 to September 2019 all the way to Guyana’s apex court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, which ruled in July 2019 that elections had to be held within three months of the successful passage of the No Confidence Motion, albeit delayed due to the ongoing litigation.

The author ignores the fact that the government openly flaunted the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice. It was only after protracted peaceful street protests and international and regional pressure for the setting of a date for elections, that President Granger declared in October 2019 that general and regional elections would be held on March 2, 2020. This was nothing but a display of executive lawlessness and abuse of power.

If the author had examined the publicly available court records in the voluminous litigation on these elections, particularly at Guyana’s apex court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, she could not have avoided concluding that the intention of the then government supported by the most senior officials in the Guyana Elections Commission was to thwart the will of the electorate and to remain in power.

In fact, the machinations to achieve this objective started even before the No Confidence Motion in 2018 with President Granger appointing the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in October 2017 in violation of the Guyana Constitution. This matter also went all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice which ruled in June and July, 2019 that the appointment of the then Chairperson by the President was flawed and unconstitutional. It took another 4 months for the President to comply with the ruling after rejecting the three submissions of the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, of 18 eminent persons in compliance with the constitution.

The author’s efforts to disregard the volume of solid evidence in the form of judicial decisions, international, regional and local media coverage of all parties concerned, including statements by heads of government, etc., demonstrate a desperate attempt to rewrite Guyana’s history.

I repeat Guyana’s democracy was on verge of the precipice.

The article provides a  misleading portrayal of what actually transpired; in this case, the events from March 2, 2020 to August 2, 2020 were witnessed and documented during the period of Guyana’s 2020 elections by the Commonwealth Electoral Observer Mission, the OAS Electoral Observer Mission, the CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission, the EU Electoral Observer Mission, and the Carter Centre Electoral Observer Mission (all of these reports and statements are publicly posted) and repeated public statements by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Secretary General of the OAS, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and the Chairperson of the CARICOM Heads of Government (also publicly available) as well as by the spokespersons of the UK, USA, Canada, European Union, and 100 individual governments.

The most telling evidence was presented to the OAS Permanent Council on two occasions in May and July 2020 by former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Hon. Bruce Golding, head of the OAS

Electoral Observer Mission. Mr. Golding in making his preliminary report to the Council in May 2020 stated that he had “never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election”. He went on to state that given that a copy of each Statement of Poll (SOP) from each polling station is posted on the wall outside of the polling station (following the count of the ballots at the place of poll) and a copy given to each party representative, it therefore took “an extraordinarily courageous mind to present fictitious numbers when such a sturdy paper trail (existed)”.

In July 2020, a month after the national recount had been finished and it was known that the PPP/C had won the elections, with still no official results forthcoming from GECOM, the members of the OAS at a specially meeting of the Permanent Council, convened by the Secretary General, called on the Granger administration to agree to a transition of power, respect the results of the national recount and concede that it lost power. Golding stated that “the pernicious actions of a few has done damage to Guyana’s image (and) the people of Guyana do not deserve this.” Yet the Granger government did nothing, but dug its heels in, as the Chief Elections Officer continued to produce fictious numbers in contrast to the national recount numbers.

If all this evidence is not enough, the author also disregarded the significant, consistent and prolonged efforts by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), new small political parties contesting these elections, civil society organizations, the Guardians of Democracy, and both regional and international partners to prevent the APNU+AFC coalition government and the senior officials of the Guyana Elections Commission from thwarting the will of the electorate to choose their representatives at free and fair elections.

By overlooking the contentious events leading up to and surrounding the March 2020 elections in Guyana, the author attempts to prove a baseless claim that the U.S. State Department’s announcement of sanctions and social media statements constituted interference. This perspective ignores the factual context in which these actions were taken – as a safeguard against antidemocratic practices.

Sanctions were a response to unconstitutional and unlawful actions by the then government and the senior GECOM officials who attempted to derail the elections and to repeatedly create new unsubstantiated results of the elections to keep the former government in office. Democratic actions, both at the national and international levels were aimed at preserving the integrity of the electoral process. The announcement of sanctions against individuals who undermined democracy in Guyana, by itself, did not constitute interference in Guyana’s elections.

To support this fabricated argument, the author falsely claims that “Canada, the U.K., and the OAS called for then-President Granger to step aside and threatened to ‘use all the tools at [their] disposal to demand a swift and transparent conclusion to the election process,’ but it was the U.S. that acted.”

In fact, it was the EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz-Cantó, in April 2020, who explicitly warned that derailing democracy could lead to significant sanctions from the 27-member European Union. This preceded the US’s public statement of sanctions in July 2020.

This article by its misrepresentation diminished the coordinated national, regional and international efforts to uphold the fundamental right to vote and elect a government of the Guyanese people’s choice.

In the end, Guyana’s emerging democracy prevailed, after a tortuous 19 months between the no confidence motion of December 21, 2018, and August 2, 2020, when the results of the total national recount were declared, and the new government led by President Mohamed Irfaan Ali was sworn in.

The Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and the Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Meyers, Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, as well as certain members of staff of GECOM and members of the former government have been charged with election fraud and the case is expected to finally be allowed to proceed in July, 2024.

The post-election Report of The Commission of Inquiry into the General & Regional Elections Of Guyana On 2 March 2020, led by eminent jurists from the Caricom region declared in April 2023:

“In summary, our inquiry reveals that there were, in fact, shockingly brazen attempts by Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Election Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo to derail and corrupt the statutorily prescribed procedure for the counting, ascertaining and tabulation of votes of the March 2nd election, as well as the true declaration of the results of that election, and that they did so – to put it in unvarnished language of the ordinary man – for the purpose of stealing the election”. (pg10-11)

Further the Commission found that “senior GECOM officials abandoned all need for neutrality and impartiality and demonstrated a bias for a competing political party and, in the course of events over those days, showed an open connection with that party and, by their efforts, sought a desired result for that party”. (pg 99)

Nothing in what transpired through that long road to protect and preserve democracy in Guyana can lay the blame at the feet of the US administration’s level; it is our own people, those in the former government in conspiracy with the senior election officials of the Guyana Elections Commission, a body constitutionally required to protect our people’s right to vote at free and fair elections, who repeatedly and brazenly interfered over a period of 19 months with the rule of law and the integrity of the electoral process, all with the sole intention of sacrificing our democracy for power and power alone for a few.

It is the Guyanese people who stood, for the first time not alone but with the world supporting its efforts, to ensure that democracy prevailed. And for that we shall be forever grateful.

This statement is being made public and l hope that it will also be given space in the online Chicago International Law Journal.

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