A high-level team of officials from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will arrive tomorrow to scrutinize Guyana’s much anticipated National Recount of the March 2 votes, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward has announced.
The three member delegation includes Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cynthia Barrow-Giles; Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission, John Jarvis; and Supervisor of St Vincent Electoral Commission; Sylvester King.
CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque had written the Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo seeking approval for a chartered plane to transport the high-level delegation in and out of Guyana. That approval was granted when the NCTF held its virtual weekly statutory meeting on Monday.
Ambassador LaRocque sought approval for the departure of a chartered flight from Guyana to collect the high-level officials, and for its return the very day. The CARICOM Secretary-General has also asked that a similar arrangement be put in place for the return of the officials upon the completion of the exercise.
Permission to enter and depart Guyana is needed in light of Emergency Measures instituted by the Government to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The country’s international airports – Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the Eugene F. Correia International Airport – have been closed to regional and international travel since March 18, 2020.
Ambassador LaRocque, in his communication with Prime Minister Nagamootoo, also indicated that the high-level officials will undergo the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 before arriving in Guyana. He noted that arrangements would be made for the officials to be tested in their respective country, however, he requested that the WHO approved PCR COVID-19 test also be administered to the team before they depart Guyana.
Last week, the NCTF granted approval for the CARICOM officials to undergo the PCR COVID-19 test as against the mandatory 14 days quarantine. Approval was granted based on the intervention of President David Granger. President Granger had insisted that “nothing should be done, or appears to be done, that could delay the start of the recount process.”
Now that an arrival date for the CARICOM officials have been announced, it is likely that the Elections Commission will announce a commencement date for the National Recount soon and gazette an order for the recount to take effect. Already an operational plan and a draft order for the National Recount to take place have been approved.
The CARICOM high-level team is returning to Guyana having earlier withdrew from the country due to a number of legal challenges that arose.
On the instruction of the CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the high-level team had arrived in Guyana on March 15 to supervise a planned national recount, which had stemmed from an agreement between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
However, on March 17, 2020, the high-level team withdrew from the process, after it was beset by several stumbling blocks. A private citizen, Ulita Moore, secured four injunctions from the High Court to block the recount, on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
Added to that, though President Granger and the Opposition Leader had signed an Aide Memoire agreeing to the recount, CARICOM had requested a legal cover, in the form of a gazzetted order. However, Guyana’s Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Charles Fung-a-Fat, advised against it. According to him, to do so would be to supersede electoral laws, and infringe on the rights of electors.
On April 3, however, GECOM took a decision to proceed with the National Recount after the Full Court had discharged the injunctions and dismissed the Fixed Date Application for Judicial Review filed by Moore on the basis that the challenge ought to have been filed by way of an Elections Petition.