President urges observers to closely monitor polls

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
March 18, 2001

FORMER United States President Jimmy Carter, who heads a 44-member Carter Center observer mission for tomorrow's elections, yesterday met President Bharrat Jagdeo and other officials at the Office of the President.

President Carter was accompanied by his wife Rosalynn and former Barbados Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, while former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon who resigned his post to campaign on the incumbent People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) platform was with President Jagdeo.

The meeting was part of the series of private discussions by Carter and his delegation with presidential candidates, elections officials and others.

Carter and team later visited the Congress Place headquarters of the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) to meet party leader, Mr Desmond Hoyte, but the media were not allowed in for the meeting there.

In an invited comment, following the meeting, President Jagdeo told reporters he and President Carter discussed issues relating to Elections Day.

Mr Jagdeo said he also expressed concern, as he had done earlier at a media briefing and in discussions with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), about the state of the Official List of Electors (OLE).

He noted that the commission, which includes members of the Opposition, has assured that not only the OLE would be ready, but too the Addendum or Supplementary List.

He said that PNC/REFORM member on the Commission, Mr Haslyn Parris had also explained to him why so many difficulties were being encountered with the list.

President Jagdeo said he also apprised President Carter of his concern over the pace of production and distribution of national ID cards, especially in areas like Berbice, East Coast Demerara and Region Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands).

Noting that the distribution process was lagging, the PPP/C presidential candidate drew attention to the fact that these areas are all strongholds for his party.

The Commission, he said, has also assured that once an eligible voter's name is on the OLE or the addendum, despite not having the new ID card, that person will be allowed to exercise his franchise.

And while he is aware of the system put in place to facilitate that category of voter, President Jagdeo said it nevertheless would have been desirable if each voter was in possession of their new national ID card.

He said he harboured a fear for people preying on innocent individuals in a bid to create confusion, and this issue was also raised during the discussion with President Carter.

Alluding to the impartiality of the many observer groups here, all at the invitation of the government, President Jagdeo said he has urged that they closely observe the situation.

They should, too, seek to cover as many polling stations as possible to make sure that the elections are credible, free and fair and can withstand the scrutiny of the Guyanese people and the international community, he said.

On that note President Jagdeo said, the commission has said it will happen and hopes that the presence of the observers coupled with their role, would help to reinforce the work of GECOM.

President Jagdeo, reiterating that he would not like any eligible voter to be disenfranchised, added that he hoped that in situations where the oath has to be administered, it will be properly scrutinised and would be transparent.

Prior to meeting President Jagdeo, Carter met GECOM Chairman Major General Joe Singh and members of the commission.