Election Audio The Way To Go

Barbados Nation
January 15, 1998

THE Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) “peace” mission to Guyana begins its work in Georgetown today.

A central focus of its mission is to seek the broadest possible agreement among the political parties for an independent international audit of the circumstances surrounding the December 15 general elections.

This seems the reasonable, logical way to go now that Chief Justice Desiree Bernard has stated that it is not within her power to rule for or against a petition from the People’s National Congress (PNC) challenging the legality of the early declaration by the chairman of the Elections Commission of Janet Jagan as the presidential winner.

The Chief Justice ruled that under the constitution the court had no jurisdiction to deal with the election of a president, but there is the option of election petitions to the Court of Appeal.

If the PNC is serious about its claims of electoral malpractices and in pursuing its grievances by a peaceful and constitutional route, the independent audit could help in an election petition case.

With the Guyana administration now recognised by some regional and international governments and Janet Jagan on record as welcoming the proposal by the Private Sector Commission for an independent audit, the PNC would weaken its case should it fail to join any mechanism established for an independent audit.

Our latest information is that the Elections Commission has invited all parties concerned to discuss the proposed audit, including its terms of reference and composition of experts.

It was tragic that anti-government protests should have degenerated into street violence and looting of business centres, forcing the government to ban all marches and demonstrations for a month.

By initiating a demonstration on Tuesday in defiance of the ban imposed on Monday, PNC leader Desmond Hoyte should know that this only further aggravates an already very delicate political situation.

We urge government-opposition dialogue instead of confrontation.

We hope that the three prominent West Indians on the CARICOM “peace” mission – Sir Henry Forde (leader), Sir Shridath Ramphal and Sir Alister McIntyre – will spare no effort to get the parties to adopt realistic responses to the problems.