Union upset it is not among observer teams
- local EAB fielding more than 1,000 monitors

Guyana Chronicle
March 18, 2001

`We will be in a position to detect any fraud that might be contemplated in the polling, counting and vote aggregation processes.' -- EAB

THE Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB), Guyana's largest independent local observer group, will be fielding more than 1,000 observers at polling stations around the country in tomorrow's elections.

But the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is upset it has not been able to put together its observer team and its President, Mr Patrick Yarde is unhappy that the observation is largely in the hands of international missions.

"I do not need any foreign observers or any expatriate to tell me what I should believe", Yarde declared at a news conference yesterday.

With the permission of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and at the invitation of the Guyana Government, the Carter Center, the Commonwealth, the European Union, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and other groups have dispatched teams of observers here for the polls.

Former United States President Jimmy Carter and former Barbados Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford are leading the Carter Center team which yesterday met several presidential candidates, elections commission officials and others.

The EAB said citizens from all 10 administrative regions will attend in record numbers at both the polling and count process on Monday.

"All EAB observers, supervisors and coordinators have been trained in the task of electoral observation, and have each signed a pledge committing themselves to performing their duties in a professional, objective, and nonpartisan manner", the group said.

EAB anticipates it "will be in a position to detect any fraud that might be contemplated in the polling, counting and vote aggregation processes."

The Bureau said it further expects that it will be able to assess the general quality of these three processes within a very short period after election day.

EAB called on the media, contesting parties, concerned organisations and all citizens "to lend their support to the Elections Commission (GECOM) as the commission administers the electoral process."

It also urged all Guyanese to exercise their democratic right to vote in the elections and to ensure that peace and tranquility will be maintained before, during and after the elections.

EAB is governed by a council of management comprising Fr. Malcolm Rodrigues, SJ, Chairman; Mr Paul Geer, Secretary/Treasurer; and members Mr David King, Dr. Kenneth King, and Ms Mona Bynoe.

The GPSU appears to have been excluded from its bid to be among the local observer teams because of a mix-up that surfaced too late to be resolved to get them in.

At a news briefing yesterday, at the union's headquarters in Georgetown, General Secretary, Mr Randolph Kirton said the GPSU will investigate the matter.

He told reporters that since the umbrella Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) was initially accredited observer status, GECOM Chairman, Major General Joe Singh suggested that the GPSU should function within the framework of the GTUC.

This was after the GPSU sought observer status and was told that the GTUC had also applied, he explained.

According to Kirton, GTUC General Secretary Mr Lincoln Lewis said he never knew that the GTUC had acquired observer status until this was brought to his attention by Kirton.

Kirton said Singh stated that he had informed Lewis about the issue some months ago.

"The irony of the matter is that it is now too late for the GTUC to find a team of local observers and the Elections Commission has not accredited the GPSU with observer status, but advised the GPSU to function within the GTUC team", he noted.

Kirton said that because of the commission's late response, both the GTUC and the GPSU will find it difficult to find a team of about 3,000 local observers countrywide by tomorrow.

He argued that there was no reason why the GPSU could not have been accredited, because it is a credible organisation.

"I did not see why, we as a credible organisation could not go forward and have our observers out there".

"I think it is a loss to the country and to the nation at this point if the GPSU is not given the opportunity to observe the elections", Kirton argued.

He stressed that one reason why GPSU should have been accredited is because it is an organisation that has been the premier work force in this country with various skills.

In addition, public servants who are its members are working in all the regions.

"We have a far flung representation which makes it easy for us to be able to identify several things", Kirton said.

"There are things that people who are here would be able to pick up more easily than observers who are flying in, and then flying out, as soon as the voting day is over", he argued.

Yarde, also at the news briefing, said he respects the office of the General Secretary of the GTUC and would not be engaged in any action to compromise the credibility and effectiveness of that office.

"We're very particular and very sensitive to the office of the General Secretary of the GTUC."

Yarde said he cannot speculate on the issue with varying information he received, and until this is clarified, the union will take appropriate action.

"My view is that we have got two statements and I am not being informed whether we have clarified and have a clear position", Yarde added.

He is strongly against the presence of foreign observers.

"It is the prevailing view within the membership of the GPSU and I would want to believe it is a national view. I will determine what confidence I have in the results of the election", he declared.

"I live in Guyana, I work in Guyana, I will experience whatever is the product of the results and I must declare that I have confidence in the process."

"No one will dictate that to me", he declared.

Three groups were named as local observers for the national elections -- the EAB, GTUC, and the United Nations Association of Guyana.

The others have opted out, except the EAB, which is now the only local observer group, officials said.