…condemns hooliganism at GECOM tabulation centre
…urges diplomats not to intrude in affairs of other countries
While there has been unwarranted interference in the Guyana’s elections process from various groups, President David Granger is confident that Guyana will soon conclude its elections process to the satisfactory international standards.
The President said too that while he is confident in his party’s ability to win the elections, he does not expect a landslide victory based on Guyana’s complex social structure. Even so, he said that his government will continue to pursue a form of government that is inclusionary.
He said that his government wants to have mature discussions with the Opposition, which represents a large portion of the Guyanese society, to deliberate on a way forward in the interest of all. “Let’s not bother with landslide. The parties are near equal,” the President said. “By formula — as has been laid out by my colleague Rupert Roopnaraine — people who win 51 per cent of the vote must not behave as if they won 100 per cent of the vote and people who only got 49 per cent of the vote must not be treated as if they got no per cent of the votes and, I live by that. I would like to see an inclusionary form of government
Appearing on the Mark Benschop Radio 107.1 FM on Monday evening, President Granger spoke to the many cases in which the country’s previously smooth electoral process was negatively impacted. Very topical during his discussions with the host, was the involvement of the diplomatic community from March 2, 2020 to times present and specific acts of the main Opposition which led to unwarranted disruptions.
Since the passage of the no-confidence motion against his government, the President said that he has witnessed forms of “hooliganism” meted out by the Opposition which did not work to benefit the Guyanese society in any way. The beginning of such acts, he said, was the incident in 2019 whereby the protesters led by People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) leaders held Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Karen Cummings hostage in her vehicle for over half an hour blocking her way and while others hurled threatening and foul remarks to Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson as he sought to enter the Pegasus Hotel.
Inside the Hotel, a former PPP/C Member of Parliament interrupted the keynote remarks of the President with shouting and placards and had reason to be escorted out of the building.
Similar disruptions were witnessed months later at the GECOM Region Four tabulation center when the Opposition stormed the center seeking to the enter the GECOM Chair’s Office and later protested violently in their strongholds injuring several school children and police officers on the job. “I never really expected to see it again at the GECOM building and during the recount process and, worse yet, I didn’t expect to see it on the streets at Tain on the Corentyne, at Bush Lot and at Bath Settlement at Lusignan. This type of hooliganism doesn’t have a place in modern Guyana,” the President said.
Joe Singh and ‘dogs of war’
Following the violent event, well-known Major General (Retired) Joe Singh, instead of condemning the act had written a letter urging the President to call off the “Dogs of War” while claiming that he had “forgiven” the President for not selecting him as GECOM Chair in 2019. The President said: “It is very disturbing that some spokespersons get out and talk about ‘Dogs of War’ but they don’t criticise the persons, the masterminds behind the stoning of school buses. There is no justification in modern society for adults to stone a school bus in which they know school children were travelling.”
Asked to give his thoughts on the silence of members of the various observer missions who were present in Guyana and at the Region Four Command Center as it was stormed, President Granger said that though he cannot state their thoughts, it is indeed disturbing.
He said that while he has observed certain actions and non-actions on the part of some, he has chosen not to make condemning remarks. “Some of the behaviour was quite extraordinary, especially with regard to the conduct of persons who enjoyed diplomatic status. It is all quite strange. People who should be representing the interest of friendly foreign countries should behave in such a manner but it’s not my style to criticize diplomats,” he said.
The Head of State stated that Guyana has diplomats around the world and he would not allow them to criticise what the President of a foreign country says or how their elections are run. This is an act in respect of the country’s sovereignty that he had expected in return.
He said that while some embassies have been very respectful — which the government has recognised – this is not the case for all diplomats.
“There are certain international standards which diplomats are expected to confirm to or comply with and I would urge that, on the basis of reciprocity people, should not intrude on the internal affairs of other countries,” he said.
Speaking to the recent remarks of Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica and head of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Observer Mission to Guyana for the March 2020 elections, the President reminded that the recount process is not yet completed and should be allowed its due course before judgments are made.
Only eight days into the national recount, expected to give Guyanese finality on the elections impasse, Golding — a known long-time friend of Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo — had claimed that there was a “transparent effort to alter the results of an election” based only on 20 ballot boxes from Region Four.
However, the President said on Monday: “I thought that the remarks were premature and we should wait on the end of the process.”
SANCTIONS ARE UNJUSTIFIED
He also stated that while some political parties in Guyana have been calling on the diplomatic community to heap sanctions on Guyana for their own reasons, one must consider what would happen to the Guyana economy were any form of sanctions to be applied. He said that those who call for this must consider that it would be “extremely damaging” on the country for a very long time and he does not take such calls lightly.
“I do not take these as empty threats and I would not like to see those sanctions inflicted on my country; on my people,” the President said.
“I am concerned about what has been said and the threats that have been made and I do believe that those countries which have indicated that there will be sanctions and those international organisations which are likely to implement sanctions could harm Guyana in a very serious way. But my government has done nothing wrong and I do not think those sanctions could be justified if it is shown that my government has behaved legally and that the elections process was a legitimate one and that it is satisfying international standards.”
I RESPECT THE LAW
During the interview, Benschop also posed the question as to why the President did not allow for his swearing-in after the second declarations were made for Region Four. However, the President made it clear that he respects that such an act must come solely from the Elections Commission. “I have never received such a declaration from the Chairman of the Elections Commission.
The Chairman of the Elections Commission is a person I respect,” he said. “I know what some of my supporters have said but I cannot swear myself in and I cannot demand, I have to wait on the process and that process will be determined by what is written in the Constitution, what the rulings of the Court are and what the Commission declares.” He pointed out that even before the March 2, 2020 elections he has always been guided by the Constitution of Guyana and will not do anything which is in collision with the Constitution.