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Carter Center Observer Denied Approval To Fly To Guyana

Guyana Elections

(Stabroek News) The Government of Guyana yesterday maintained complete silence in the face of mounting local and international pressure to facilitate the return of observers from the Carter Center for the National Recount scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Last week, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) invited all observer missions which had been accredited for the May 2 General and Regional Elections (GRE) to return to observe the recount of the votes cast. The Center which is one of the five missions so far accredited had attempted to have one member of its team travel to Guyana yesterday to observe the process but failed to secure permission from the Government.

In a brief statement last night, the group said that they had “deployed an observer to Miami who was prepared to travel to Georgetown, but unfortunately, his flight was denied approval to carry international election observers.”

“The Carter Center continues to reach out to government officials to understand what is required to allow Center staff to return to Guyana to observe the recount process,” the mission said,  adding that it remains committed to providing independent observation of Guyana’s electoral process, including the upcoming recount.  The recount is expected to last at least 25 days.

Currently, Guyana’s borders and those of its neighbours are closed to incoming international flights except in special cases. One such case was the team of scrutineers from CARICOM which arrived on Friday. The three-member team was granted a special dispensation by the National COVID-19 Task Force following assurances from CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque that the members would be tested for the virus and would only enter Guyana if they tested negative.

Other instances include flights to carry American citizens from Guyana back to the United States. These flight have typically arrived empty but the United States Embassy had offered both the Carter Center and the Inter-national Republican Institute a berth on a May 4 charter.

“As part of the May 4 flight that has received approval, the Embassy requested through diplomatic note that the incoming flight carry international observers from the Carter Center. This request was made as part of the US commitment to a free, fair and transparent recount process,’ the embassy’s public affairs officer, Violeta Talandis said on Sunday.

She said that while the embassy received a  response acknowledging receipt of their request no answer to the request was received.

She stressed that the diplomatic note referenced the observers’ intentions to comply with the COVID-19 testing and quarantine measures.

The United States government through Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak on Sunday called on government to allow the two groups into the country.

Canadian High Com-missioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee and the United Nations Resident Coordinator here, Mikiko Tanaka are also among those who have called for the return of the Carter Center team.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has also called on the government and GECOM to ensure the return of the Carter Center observers.

In a statement on May 3rd, it said “The PSC, itself an observer to these elections, is aware of the valuable contribution of the Carter Center to democracy and free and fair elections in Guyana for more than 20 years. The Carter Center is an accredited observer to the May 2020 election which remains incomplete until the declaration of the results. As the body constitutionally responsible for supervising elections and the power to ensure fairness in the process, GECOM must ensure that the process is completed transparently and fairly and deliver results considered as credible by all fair minded”.

In a letter to Head of the COVID-19 task force, de facto Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, dated May 3rd, newly re-elected President of the George-town Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nicholas Deygoo-Boyer said that international observers are integral to reinforcing the credibility of the process.

“It is with this in mind that we write you in your capacity as Chairman of the National Task Force on COVID-19. We would like to urge that permission be granted to the Carter Center to travel into Guy-ana on the United States of America (USA) humanitarian flight to continue to observe the GRE as the recount process is underway. The presence of the Carter Center, a recognized body for ensuring credibility of the democratic process internationally and a long-standing partner and friend of Guyana, will be important for bolstering the process in Guyana”, he stated.

Additionally a group of Guyanese citizens who identified themselves as supporters of the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic held a protest yesterday outside the home of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Raghunandan Singh, one of the protestors, told Stabroek News that for full transparency all “players” accredited need to be present.

“What does this government have to hide? I can’t see that these accredited observers are being prevented from boarding the plane. We need to be vigilant,” he maintained.

Government officials however remain silent. Stabroek News has attempted to reach the National COVID-19 Task-force though its Chair, de facto Prime Minister Nagamootoo, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Harmon and former Communications Director Mark Archer but their phones went unanswered.

This newspaper had also previously attempted to reach de facto Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Minister State Karen Cummings and Dawn Hastings respectively on this matter but their numbers also went unanswered.

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