THE Organisation of American States (OAS) elections observer mission will be in Guyana in early May, according to its country representative, Jean Ricot Dormeus.He told the Guyana Chronicle yesterday, in an invited comment, that a preliminary assessment mission is expected in Guyana next week to meet with stakeholders and make determinations on the size of the team and the length of stay.
Additionally, the OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, and the Permanent Representative of Guyana to the Organisation, Bayney Karran, signed an agreement yesterday to field the electoral observer mission.
The signing took place in Panama City, in the lead-up to the seventh Summit of the Americas.
A statement from the OAS said that the Secretary General has expressed his hope that “this will be a very good moment for Guyanese democracy,” and his conviction that, “as always, the Government of Guyana will give the Mission all the facilities they need to do their job well.”
Insulza noted that this will be the fifth electoral observation mission that the OAS has deployed in Guyana.
The OAS observed elections in Guyana in 1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011.
CHIEF OF MISSION
The OAS Secretary General has designated former Foreign Minister and Ambassador of Belize to the OAS, Lisa Shoman, as Chief of Mission.
Commenting on the agreement, Ambassador Karran said, “The role that the OAS plays in strengthening democracy in the Hemisphere is because democracy and good governance are fundamental to the development agenda, to human rights, to security and to so many other important areas of work.
“…this election that is about to take place on May 11 is going to be a very pivotal election in Guyana, and will have far reaching consequences for the governance of the country irrespective of the result.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Dr. Steve Surujbally, confirmed this and added that the presence of international observers is welcome.
The traditional observer missions, aside from the OAS, include the Commonwealth, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
Dr. Surujbally noted that the United Nations and the Commonwealth have already fielded needs assessment missions to Guyana.
Additionally, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has approached the Commission for accreditation as a local election observer. The Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB) is also expected to revamp its operations and act as another local observer.
The GECOM Chairman maintained that all observers, local and foreign, will be required to sign onto certain protocols before they are accredited as observers.
The Guyana Chronicle was able to get an exclusive look at these protocols, which outline the roles and functions of the observer groups.
Relative to foreign observers, the missions, according to the protocol, will be expected to adhere to more than 35 guidelines. In addition to the guidelines, the rights and privileges of accredited election observer groups were also outlined in the protocol.
Similar rights and guidelines apply to local observer groups, which were detailed in a separate document seen by this newspaper.
Under the Election Law (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 2000, Section 20 states that: “The Commission may approve of local organisations observing the democratic process involved in any election provided such organisations fulfill such conditions as may be stipulated by the Commission.”
Both protocols, for foreign and local observer groups, state clearly that if GECOM considers that an observer group “wilfully, without restraint, overtly and/or with malice aforethought breached the modus operandi and protocols” outlined by the Commission, GECOM has the authority to and may rescind/withdraw its accreditation from the individual errant observer or even from the entire observer mission.
By Vanessa Narine