Caribbean trade bloc rushes prime ministers to Guyana

Guyana President, David Arthur Granger.

The 15-nation Caribbean Community trade bloc Wednesday said it was rushing a group of its longest serving prime ministers to Guyana to help it resolve a simmering crisis involving the country’s undeclared elections results, a full 10 days after locals voted in general elections.

CARICOM in a statement said the group that includes current chair and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, PM Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent for emergency talks with the governing coalition and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP). The talks are scheduled for later Wednesday.

Both sides have claimed victory in elections held on March, 2. The Indo-dominated PPP said it has won the elections by about three seats, while the multiparty coalition of retired army general David Granger said it breasted the tape by two of the 65-parliamentary seats.

The dispute had led to street protests mostly by PPP supporters in the past week. Police shot and killed an eastern coastal village teenager who they said had attacked officers with a machete. Several others were injured by shotgun pellets. Other protesters burned tires, blocked east west highways and threw stones at school buses injuring several students. Both sides have appealed for calm. The protests have died down for now.

CARICOM said in a statement that it is intervening “in an effort to ease tensions in the country and assist in arriving at a resolution to the impasse that resulted from last Monday’s general elections. The delegation will meet with the leadership of all parties that contested the poll.”

All this comes as western nations, including the United States have not only appealed for calm but have warned against the swearing in of any president until court challenges and verification of ballots have been completed. Counting and verification of ballots have stopped since last Thursday.

“The people of Guyana deserve a credible election and transfer of power that reflects their will. Vote tabulation irregularities marred Guyana’s March 2 elections. Our ambassador and many observers saw flawed tabulation. Irrespective of today’s legal proceedings, any government sworn in on the basis of that result would not be legitimate,” said Ambassador Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the U.S. Department of State in a recent tweet. The coalition is maintaining that it won the elections and is likely to call for a total recount, contending that it will expose ballot stuffing and other forms of fraud by the PPP.

The 2020 elections are being widely seen as the most crucial since independence from Britain in 1966, especially because the country as of late December became one of the world’s newest producers of oil. Guyana recently sold its first million barrels to markets in the Far East and southern US states. It will get four more similar sized shipments this year worth about $300 million as part of its production sharing arrangement with a consortium led by ExxonMobil along with Hess Oil of the US and Nexen of China.

Revenues by 2025 when three oilfields would be on stream have been pegged at $5 billion setting the stage for the country to be one of the richest per capita in the hemisphere.

CARICOM had undertaken a similar mission in 1997 when the then opposition, now in government, had disputed the results of a poll that was widely seen as flawed and corrupted. Then Justice Claudette Singh, now ironically the embattled chair of the elections commission, had vitiated those results, deeming them null and void but she did not order a rerun of the elections. PM Mitchell was part of the regional delegation back in 1997, a point he mad to local media before heading to regional group headquarters, Guyana.

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