Some int’l observers erred in judgement

The Head of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, former Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr. Owen Arthur is seen here with PPP General-Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo at one of the PPP’s 2020 elections campaign rallies at Lusignan on the East Coast of Demerara.

Dear Editor

AN INTERNATIONAL Electoral Observer Mission (IEOM) in any country has its role to play and should not be hindered. And those who came to observe the 2020 General and Regional Elections were accredited and had every right to do so. They viewed the Guyanese people exercising their constitutional right to vote and at the end of the elections, the IEOMs stated that the elections were free and fair.

Nonetheless, in an examination of the of the OAS report forwarded so far on the 2020 General and Regional Elections, there have been some obvious flaws in the way some of them handled their responsibilities. And this has been clearly revealed by the manner in which the report was presented.

The OAS Observation Mission has a detailed manual which is widely publicised for all to see. In that manual it states among other things that the OAS/EOMs are guided by some ‘fundamental principles of international electoral observation’. These include –

“Objectivity and neutrality: The work of an OAS/EOM depends on its impartiality, neutrality, and independence. These basic characteristics of OAS/EOMs are reflected, among other things, in the actions of the international observers as well as in the statements and declarations of the OAS/EOM.”

Gustavo Arnavat of Mercury standing with PPP/C prime ministerial candidate,
Mark Phillips at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown.

The manual went on to state that there must be ‘respect for the host country’s domestic laws.’ “Doing the work of observation implies complete respect of the constitution and laws of the country where the electoral process is taking place. The privileges and immunities granted to international observers, such as immunity against arrests, searches and seizures, and/or legal proceedings, are intended to ensure that the international observers can act independently in carrying out their specific functions.”

The OAS manual further states, “It is not up to international observers to approve, disapprove, or correct the decisions of the electoral authority; replace or question political party poll-watchers; or increase the human or material resources of any participant in the process, including the competent national authority, which is the only arbiter of the process.”

According to the OAS manual, these are some of the foundational doctrines on which the institution stands, as it relates to international observing of elections in countries.

Guyana’s experience
But how has Guyana’s experience been with the OAS and some of the international observers? Specific objectives of the OAS/EOMs has stated in no uncertain terms that observers should, “…ensure the impartiality, transparency, and reliability of the electoral process… help create an atmosphere of public trust and encourage citizen participation,” among others.

Instead of observing these ‘fundamental principles, there were statements and actions that can easily give the impression that the author(s) were representing the cause of a particular political group. The report said, for example:

“The Mission has noted that images of the Statements of Poll published by the PPP/Civic on its website, which it claims were given to its polling agents after the ballots were counted at each polling station on the night of the elections, produce a result that is vastly different from that being declared by the Returning Officer and would have a decisive effect on the outcome of the national election.” The report went further:

“To date, neither the Chief Elections Officer nor APNU has challenged the authenticity of the Statements of Poll published by the PPP/Civic by producing the copies in their possession. The implications are deeply troubling and make it all the more necessary for the Returning Officer to display the Statements of Poll on which he is relying.” How very sad!

Putting it simply – The OAS and any other observer mission are here not to set strife, but in the words of their manual, to be objective, impartial, neutral and independent. In essence, there would have been here to make peace as much as possible. But even in the midst of the elections matter still in the courts, as well as attracting CARICOM and other interested parties, the OAS crafted an obviously lopsided report.

If the entire election was done in a free and fair manner, how come Region Four, the one that is supposed to make the difference for the APNU+AFC coalition was not? How come everything seems to have gone wrong with Region Four – from top to bottom?

It can therefore be conceived that the OAS report is an obvious effort to divide this country, even though this same report has stated that they were, “…pleased to have declared that the March 2 poll was, in almost all respects, well executed.” Why didn’t the organisation seek to have dialogue with the APNU+AFC coalition if they had discerned a problem somewhere along the line? The manual of the OAS and other international observers suggest different manoeuvring.

One of the major principles written in the OAS manual is that the international observers should, “Help create an atmosphere of public trust and encourage citizen participation.” With the help of some of these observers Guyana has so far experienced the opposite.

Earl Hamilton