Caribbean News, Latin America News:
Compiled By NAN’s Editorial Team
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. July 10, 2020: Today, July 10, 2020, marks 130 days since voters in the South American CARICOM nation of Guyana went to the polls to elect a new government. Four other Caribbean countries have had elections and moved on with the results since but to date, Guyanese are still waiting on the official results of the election in a country that has come into tremendous petroleum wealth but remains polarized again by decades old racial politics. Here’s a timeline of events to date as compiled by reports from Global Voices and News Americas using Guyana media reports.
March 2: Voters turned out for the general elections across 10 electoral districts known as regions.
March 5: Nine of the country’s 10 regions declare results, at which point the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) leads by more than 50,000 votes. When the Returning Officer (RO) for Region 4, Clairmont Mingo, declares the outstanding district’s results later that day, it appears that the governing coalition, A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), has enough of a margin in Region 4 to win the entire election.
There is controversy, however, over proper procedure. Allegations abound over the improper use of a spreadsheet: By law, results must be verified according to the official Statements of Poll. There are also reports of a data entry clerk having access to an unauthorized laptop and flash drive. The PPP is granted a court injunction barring Region 4’s RO from declaring the results until they can be properly verified.
March 6: GECOM receives the court order pertaining to the PPP’s injunction.
March 8: Guyana’s acting chief justice (CJ), Roxane George-Wiltshire, rules that the court has jurisdiction to hear the Region 4 verification suit.
March 10: Arguments pertaining to the suit are heard.
March 11: CJ George-Wiltshire rules that the Region 4 results were “unlawful” as they did not fall in line with the requirements laid out in Section 84 of Guyana’s Representation of the People Act, which refers to the counting of votes polled.
Her nullification of Region 4’s declaration, coupled with her order for GECOM to conform with the law, means that the final results of the country’s general elections hang in the balance until the recount is properly conducted.
The same day, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads arrive in Guyana and urge President Granger and his governing APNU+AFC coalition to abide by the law.
March 12: GECOM requires observers to be newly accredited and limits the number of observers allowed per team as the Region 4 re-verification process is carded to begin. The process is stalled, however, when the results continue to be read from the contentious spreadsheet, in contradiction of the CJ’s ruling.
The PPP files contempt proceedings against the Region 4 Returning Officer. The CJ makes it clear that the RO must read the results based on the Statement of Poll.
March 13: Region 4 verification recommences, though the approach is still unclear. The GECOM requests a location move to better facilities in downtown Georgetown, the capital.
The verification takes place in a shed in the yard of GECOM in Georgetown, at which the RO displays photocopies of the Statements of Poll — allegedly 19 with visible signs of alternations — and once again declares Region 4 for the APNU+AFC despite protests from people in attendance.
March 14: President Granger asks for an independent, high-level CARICOM team, led by Barbados Prime Minister and CARICOM Chair Mia Mottley, to oversee the recount of Region 4 ballots, in accordance with the CJ’s March 11 ruling; the PPP agrees. In fact, the government and the opposition both go a step further, agreeing to a recount in all 10 regions.
March 15: The CARICOM team meets with GECOM and agree upon the conditions and parameters of the recount, which is scheduled for March 16. Containers with ballot boxes are moved to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, where the recount is to take place.
March 16: The CARICOM team, along with other observers and stakeholders, arrive at the conference centre, but GECOM claims to still be working out the modalities of the process and denies them access.
At approximately 3:30 that afternoon, GECOM officials issue a press release stating that they need signed authorisation by President Granger, Opposition Leader Jagdeo and the CARICOM team before they can accommodate. They also advise that the building needs to be sanitised against COVID-19 before they can allow entry.
Police remove all observers and political party representatives from the premises, though GECOM grants permission for representatives of the various political parties to stay overnight to guard the containers.
March 17: Ulita Grace Moore, who ran as a candidate for the governing coalition in Guyana’s 2018 local government elections, successfully files an ex-parte injunction to block GECOM from acting on the recount agreement made with CARICOM.
GECOM is accused of deliberately delaying the recount to facilitate the injunction. Since the recount never began, the upholding of this injunction gives GECOM the freedom to declare the election result in the government’s favour — something it has not yet done.
An injunction hearing is slated for March 20. Meanwhile, the two sides sign the CARICOM agreement, as requested by GECOM.
March 20: Justice Franklin Holder, the judge overseeing the injunction, hears arguments for both sides. Only four media houses are allowed entry to hear the proceedings, which reportedly take place in chambers.
March 31: CJ George-Wiltshire discharges Moore’s injunction and orders her to pay the PPP’s legal costs. GECOM is now free to conduct the recount.
April 2: The US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lync, was forced to issue a statement defending the input by her and US government officials on the need for a fair result from the March 2nd general elections here. She also asserted that the United States is “entirely non-partisan about which party wins Guyana’s 2020 elections.”
April 5: The Court of Appeal handed down a ruling which effectively cleared the way for GECOM to proceed with the nationwide recount of votes cast at the elections.
April 7, 2020: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the Court of Appeal decision clearing the way for a recount of votes from the March 2nd elections and said that the US is prepared to work with GECOM to ensure a fair process.
April 8: Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield proposed 156 days for the recounting of ballots from the disputed March 2nd elections even as most of the contesting parties dubbed it unacceptable.
April 9: After an uproar over the proposed 156 days for a recount of ballots from the March 2nd general elections, the opposition-nominated members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) presented for discussion a counter proposal which would reduce the number of days for the process to 10.
April 15: The Head of the OAS observer mission at the March 2nd elections, Bruce Golding, expressed concern that an accurate election result has not been determined six weeks on and he said that the proposal by the Chief Election Officer for a five-month recount of votes was “unheard of in any democracy and would be unacceptable under any circumstances.”
April 16: The Commonwealth observer group which was accredited to the March 2 General Elections urged that GECOM undertake the long-awaited recount of votes in full compliance with the Representation of the People Act and a credible manner.
April 17: The GECOM Chair decided that there will be no more than 10 work stations for a recount of votes.
April 19: GECOM was told by de facto Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo that its recount of the votes for March 2nd general elections must not extend into the COVID-19 curfew period and that any persons coming into the country for the process would have to be quarantined for two weeks at a government institution.
April 24: Michael Kozak, Head of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, again lamented the delay in the finalization of Guyana’s election results and said this is a violation of the rights of the people of this country to a transparent electoral process as the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) announced it was aiming to complete a full national recount of votes cast at the March 2 polls in 25 days.
April 27: GECOM said that CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque had dispatched a letter to the Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) indicating that arrangements would be made for the members of the high-level team for the recount to be tested in their respective country using the WHO approved PCR COVID-19 test.
May 1: CARICOM Chair, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley called on all concerned to ensure a transparent recount process without further delay in order to provide legitimacy to any government which would be sworn in as a result of the March 2nd general elections. Her statement coincided with the arrival of the CARICOM scrutineers in Guyana ahead of the May 6th recount commencement.
May 2: The Carter Center said that it has so far been unsuccessful in getting permission from the Government of Guyana for an observer to fly into the country on Monday to observe the recount of votes for the March 2nd elections. In a tweet, the Center said: “The Carter Center is trying to get an observer on a Monday flight to Georgetown to observe the recount but has so far been unsuccessful in getting approval from the government of Guyana.”
May 3: A senior Canadian government official called on President David Granger to “immediately approve” the return of the Carter Center to monitor the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections. Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas at Global Affairs Canada in a tweet said: “We continue to watch the situation in Guyana. Glad the CARICOM mission has returned but President Granger should also immediately approve return of the Carter Center. They are duly accredited & want to complete their observation mission.”
May 4: President David Granger welcomed the announcement of a date for the start of the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections and said that he will abide by the result.
May 5: Containers with ballot boxes were transported \ from the Kingston Headquarters of the Guyana Elections Commission to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre in Liliendaal in preparation for the long-awaited start of the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections.
May 6: the official recount got underway at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre in Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara. Only 25 ballot boxes were counted on Day 1.
May 11: The Carter Center said it remained interested in observing the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections. Joe Harmon, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National COVID-19 Taskforce Secretariat, has said that the Carter Center can return to Guyana to observe the national recount of votes if it requests permission through the right channels and complies with the measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
May 12: Six legislators from the US House of Representatives representing both Democrats and Republicans expressed support for the recount of votes underway here and called for the return of Carter Center observers.
May 13: Barbados’ Ambassador to the OAS Noel Lynch declared that CARICOM takes its scrutineering role in the recount of votes from the March 2nd elections seriously and that every vote must count. He told a virtual meeting of the Organisation of American States’ Permanent Council that had observer missions like the OAS not persevered in Guyana, “a result might have been declared that would not have commanded the acceptance of the Guyanese people, or the respect and approval of the international community.” His comments came as Head of the OAS observer mission to the March 2 polls, Bruce Golding told the OAS Permanent Council that the recount has shown to date clear examples of the inflation of APNU+AFC figures by the District Four Returning Officer and a reduction of numbers for the opposition PPP/C.
May 14: Guyana’s de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Karen Cummings told the US Ambassador in a letter that it may not be possible for the Carter Center and an advisor of the International Republican Institute (IRI) to oversee the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections.
May 16: The Jamaica Observer published a strong editorial on the Guyana election drama titled: ‘Time to end this shameful circus in Guyana.’
May 17: President David Granger said his government will accept the declaration of the current recount of the March 2 General and Regional Elections while speaking with reporters following the visit to the site of the recount at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
May 19: At the end of more than half of the 25 days assign-ed to the National Recount, the Guyana Elections Commission completed the processing of only 642 ballot boxes, a mere 27% of the 2,339 boxes from the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections (GRE) and then said it was adding two more stations
May 21: The Carter Center today expressed disappointment at not being able to return and observe the recount of votes at Guyana’s March 2nd general elections. In a statement, the Center said it “is disappointed that the government of Guyana chose not to demonstrate a genuine commitment to transparency by ensuring that all duly accredited organizations, including The Carter Center, be allowed to conduct their work.”
May 22: The Commission broke its silence on allegations made by the incumbent coalition that numerous cases of multiple voting occurred since electors who were dead or out of the jurisdiction on March 2 are recorded as having cast ballots in the Elections.” He who asserts must prove,” Justice Claudette Singh said.
May 26: In an Independence Day message to Guyana, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Guyana Government to respect the wishes of voters as expressed on March 2nd 2020.
May 29: The GECOM announced that the long-awaited results of the March 2 General and Regional Elections will finally be declared on or before June 16th based on pace of recount.
May 30: APNU+AFC elections agent Joseph Harmon said that the incumbent coalition has written 11 letters in the last four days to GECOM over alleged “irregularities” associated with the March 2nd general elections and it is demanding answers be given.
May 31: Stabroek News reports that Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice Ret’d Claudette Singh, wrote Police Commissioner Leslie James on May 22nd asking for information on the allegations made by APNU+AFC that people who were not in country on March 2nd were ticked off on polling stations lists as having voted.
June 4: The OAS Observer Mission aid it has no reason to doubt that the results emanating from the recount at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre will be credible. This as PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo condemned a statement by the APNU+AFC that the March 2nd general elections were not credible because of an alleged high incidence of fraud.
June 5: Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Michael G Kozak said he expected President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to honour their commitment to “respect legitimate recount results”
June 6: While reiterating that he will abide by the declarations of GECOM, President David Granger adverted to numerous reports of “irregularities” at the March 2nd general elections and said these appeared to have been committed deliberately. In an address to the nation released by the Ministry of the Presidency, Granger said: “Everyone is aware of numerous reports of irregularities including unstamped ballots, deceased and migrant voters and missing poll books. Those irregularities appear to have been committed intentionally, not accidentally, and demonstrate a pattern of manipulation of the electoral process.
June 7: The last of 2,339 ballot boxes from the controversy-ridden March 2nd general elections was recounted at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, ending a 33-day recount. GECOM had decided to tabulate the votes from the 29 East Coast boxes that weren’t accompanied by statutory documents.
June 8: The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an accredited observer at the National Recount of votes, urged all parties to support the rapid conclusion of the recount process.
June 10: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States looks forward to a speedy and credible end to the election recount. “The United States continues to stand for democratic values elsewhere in the hemisphere too. We look forward to a quick and credible conclusion to the vote recount in Guyana”, Pompeo said during his opening statement at a news conference at the State Department on the Release of the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report.
June 11: A contempt proceedings filed against GECOM District Four Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo was terminated after attorney Anil Nandlall filed a notice of application to withdraw and discontinue. This as the incoming CARICOM Chair, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, said that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) expects that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will honour the results of the national vote recount from Guyana’s March 2 polls and use them to declare a winner.
June 13th: GECOM Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield submitted a report on the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections saying it does not provide a credible or verifiable basis for a result creating chaos and confusion again.
June 15: CARICOM observers presented their report to the GECOM chair. In its scathing report upholding the integrity of the March 2nd general elections, the CARICOM observer team castigated GECOM commissioners for undermining the legitimacy of the electoral body. The CARICOM observer team also said the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections says it reflects the will of the people and provides a basis for the declaration of a result.
The report came as Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland and the OAS welcomed the CARICOM observers report on recount of the March 2nd general elections and called for the acceptance of the results.
The recount showed the main opposition PPP/C winning the presidency – with its candidate Irfaan Ali – and an absolute majority in Parliament.
June 16th: Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield was again directed to prepare the final report for the March 2nd general elections using the data from the recount of votes. But he was given no timeline.
June 17: The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) at the March 2nd general elections welcomed the CARICOM observer report and says it trusts that GECOM will move expeditiously to conclude the recount process in accordance with data from the recount of votes. This as The Private Sector Commission (PSC) congratulated PPP/C presidential candidate Irfaan Ali on his election to the presidency and called on caretaker President David Granger to recognize the result of the March 2nd elections as reflected in the recount.
June 18: Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield today failed to submit the report of the valid votes cast in the March 2 General and Regional Elections (GRE) in direct contravention of a directive from GECOM Chairperson Justice Claudette Singh. Singh had directed Lowenfield to submit a report of valid votes cast based on the results of the recently concluded National Recount by 1 pm today. A meeting of the Elections Commission was also scheduled for that time to receive and deliberate on that report. However just after 3 p.m., the meeting was adjourned for a lack of quorum and Lowenfield had not made a submission.
June 19: AFC executive and former Minister of Business in the APNU+AFC government, Dominic Gaskin tonight said that there was no reasonable basis on which the governing coalition can claim to have won more votes than the PPP/C in the March 2nd elections and he said claims of fraud have been “grossly exaggerated”. In a statement on his Facebook page, Gaskin, who is the son-in-law of President David Granger, also charged that APNU+AFC has no intention of relinquishing control of government. His comments came as The Justice For All Party (JFAP), a component of the incumbent APNU+AFC coalition called for the swearing in of PPP/C presidential candidate Irfaan Ali. The JFAP, headed by CN Sharma, became the first member of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to declare that Ali and the opposition PPP/C have won the controversial March 2nd general elections.
June 20: The Guyana Court of Appeal said it will rule on June 22nd at 1.30 pm in the case brought by Eslyn David against GECOM and the Chief Election Officer seeking to stop the declaration of the results of the March 2nd general elections. This as Change Guyana, which contested the March 2nd general elections, called on President David Granger to concede defeat and allow the inauguration of PPP/C presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali.
June 22: In a case brought by Eslyn David, the Guyana Court of Appeal agreed by majority decision to issue an order that there be an interpretation of the words “valid votes cast” as per Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution of Guyana and the recount order as it pertains to the election of a President. The court by a majority decided that it has the limited jurisdiction to interpret the article to mean that there be a determination of valid votes cast.
June 23: Following a ruling by the Appeal Court, Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield submitted what he claimed was a report of the “valid and credible votes” at the March 2 polls to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), showing a victory for the incumbent APNU+AFC after invalidating almost 25% of the votes cast at the March 2 polls. According to this new submission, a total of 171,825 votes were cast for the APNU +AFC compared to 166,343 for the PPP/C and 3,348 for a joinder list of new parties. As a result, with an electoral quota of 5,300, the coalition would be awarded 33 seats and the PPP/C 31 seats, and the joint list would get one seat. It was not clear where this new figure for valid votes originates as it did not align with the numbers previously submitted by Lowenfield more than a week ago.
It was also announced that The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has advised that it will convene a full hearing of all matters associated with the appeal by Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali of the June 22nd decision by the Guyana Court of Appeal.
As UN Resident Coordinator to Guyana, Mikiko Tanaka said a credible end to the elections here is urgent for an elected government and parliament to cater for the needs of the people.
June 24: CARICOM Chair, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley slammed the “gamesmanship” surrounding the Guyana elections and expressed bewilderment that the Chief Election Officer could cancel over 115,000 votes.
“…we must ask – on what grounds and by what form of executive fiat does the Chief Elections Officer determine that he should invalidate 1 vote, far less over 115 000 votes when the votes were already certified as valid by officers of the Guyana Elections Commission in the presence of the political parties,” she said.
Her comments came as Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland added to the chorus of international voices expressing concern over the delay in finalizing the March 2nd election result and she said that figures presented by the Chief Election Officer different from those of the recount would be “contrary to the fundamental principles which are treasured by the Commonwealth family and are enshrined in our Commonwealth Charter.”
June 26: Key US senators calling for President David Granger to concede. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, as well as Ben Cardin (D-MD) to also express concern at “questionable” maneuvers to delay a final declaration of results. This as Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield defended his decision to invalidate the votes of over 115,000 citizens that were cast at the March 2nd polls by saying that he has acted lawfully, which the main opposition later said was “simply an untruth.” This as the APNU+AFC coalition voiced its support for the report and as the outgoing chair of CARICOM, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley firmly stood by her position in relation to Guyana’s protracted elections, saying to her detractors here that “The truth hurts”.
During a press conference in Bridgetown yesterday, Mottley was asked whether she wanted to say anything to those here who have criticized her views and said: “The truth hurts…I have nothing more to say. The truth hurts but what we must never do in CARICOM is to avoid the truth and avoid our principles.”
June 29th: Despite a chorus of international and local opposition and calls for transition of power, President David Granger endorsed the controversial report by Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield which invalidated the votes of 25% of Guyanese electors. During an interview on the Mark Benschop Radio, his third in recent weeks while ignoring other media, Granger said that the incumbent APNU+AFC continues to insist that the elections be decided not just on quantity of votes cast but on the quality of those votes.
June 30: Two private Guyanese citizens, Desmond Morian and Daniel Josh Kanhai, filed private criminal charges against Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield over his controversial election report of June 23rd in which 115,000 voters were lopped off and in relation to the alleged presentation of false results.
July 1: At a press briefing at the US State Department, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has instructed his Department to have all of those who undermine Guyana’s democracy held accountable. His comments came as The Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ), convened a full hearing of all matters associated with the appeal by Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali of the decision by the Guyana Court of Appeal which sought to assert that the word “valid” has to be used to determine the votes cast for the purposes of the election of a President. Justices announced a judgement on July 8, 2020.
July 3: CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin La Rocque said that he had every confidence in the work produced by the observer team at the recount of votes at Guyana’s March 2nd general elections.
July 5: The Government was flayed by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall for its `sub judice’ attempt to influence the expected ruling on Wednesday by the Caribbean Court via advertisements placed in regional newspapers and on the social media page of PNCR General Secretary Volda Lawrence which state that the case is outside of the CCJ’s remit.
July 8: Justices of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Guyana’s highest appellate court, threw out a controversial Guyana Court of Appeal decision that inserted the word valid into the consideration of votes for the election of a President.
In a highly anticipated ruling, President of the Court Adrian Saunders, said that the court was unanimous in its decision that the decision of the Guyana Court of Appeal was null and void and of no effect. The Court of Appeal, in its decision, had ordered that the words are to be interpreted as meaning ‘more valid votes are cast.’
The CCJ also said that the report of the Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield of June 23 cutting over 115,000 votes is illicit and of no effect.
The court said Lowenfield must produce his report as already directed by Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice Claudette Singh based on the results of the validated recount.
The full ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the case Mohamed Irfaan Ali, et al v Eslyn David, et al can be accessed here.
Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said subsequently that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must now declare the winner of the elections based on the recount results.
Kozak made the remarks on Twitter following the ruling handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice.
July 9: Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Justice Claudette Singh, by letter, instructed Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield to submit a final elections report by 2 p.m. on July 10th, using the results generated from the national recount exercise.
This as Chairman of the Caribbean Community, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves has called for the declaration of elections results in Guyana “without further delay.”
And after Government-aligned Commissioners of the GECOM requested time to “study” the ruling handed down by the Court.
July 10: GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield is expected to submit a new report based on the results of the recount exercise to the Chairperson at 2 p.m. A proposed meeting of GECOM on the way forward following the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision has been postponed to today as government-appointed commissioners have requested time to study the ruling.