PNC will cooperate with CARICOM team --Hoyte

By Patrick Denny
Starbroek News
January 14, 1998

People's National Congress (PNC) leader, Desmond Hoyte, has restated his willingness to cooperate with the CARICOM team due here today in exploring ways of resolving the political impasse that has gripped the country since the December 15 elections.

Speaking with reporters at a press conference at his Congress Place headquarters yesterday, Hoyte said that the information he had received in a letter from Grenadian Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, indicated no specific mandate save that the team would try its best to resolve the political impasse. Dr Mitchell is the present CARICOM chairman.

Due in today are former Commonwealth secretary general and current CARICOM Chief Negotiator, Sir Shridath Ramphal, former CARICOM secretary general and current Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Alister McIntyre, and prominent Barbadian Queen's Counsel and former Foreign Minister, Sir Henry Forde.

About the other initiatives to attempt to resolve the present impasse, Hoyte stressed that his party had no difficulty with an audit in principle and had so indicated to the Private Sector Commission (PSC).

But he opined that the pre-audit would conclude that an audit could not be proceeded with because the material to be audited would be so contaminated. He said that while many voices had been raised in support of an audit, the current problem was that at the moment the proponents of the proposal had not bothered to define clearly what the term meant.

Besides CARICOM, local organisations which have made audit proposal initiatives are the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB), through its local observer mission head, Hugh Cholmondeley; the PSC; the Trades Union Congress; the International Foundation for Election Systems; and the Elections Commission.

Hoyte said that it was the PNC's contention that any audit had to go beyond the counting of the ballots in the boxes and the voter identification cards. He explained that because of his party's belief that the ballot boxes and other material had been so corrupted that nothing short of a forensic audit--a complete investigation into the electoral process leading up to and after the end of poll on December 15, 1997--would make any sense at this stage.

Hoyte said that among the terms of reference for such an audit should be:

* an inquiry into the adequacy and efficacy of all relevant stages, procedures and activities of that phase of the post-poll determination of the compilation of the results of the poll;

* the level of compliance with the polling day procedures, especially as they related to the management of the voter ID cards, rejected ballots, and the preservation of the integrity of the ballots;

* the management of the election documents as the basis for effective control of the elections;

* the instructions given by the Elections Commission to its employees and agents for the conduct of the poll on December 15, 1997, and the adequacy of the training and supervision provided by the Elections Commission to ensure their compliance with those instructions.

Hoyte contended that the proposal from the Elections Commission was a non-starter because nobody who had played any part in the elections should be part of the audit investigation.

With regard to the initiative by the Commission to involve the parties in its initiative, Hoyte said that his party had not received any invitation from Chairman of the Commission, Doodnauth Singh, SC. The party general secretary, Aubrey Norton, also said that he could not recall receiving any correspondence from the commission.

However, Singh told Stabroek News last night that the correspondence had been sent by hand on Monday to all the parties which had contested the elections.

So far, he had received responses and met three of them, a Good and Green Guyana, the Alliance for Guyana and The United Force, and expected to receive their proposals and terms of reference for an audit by this afternoon.

Also, Singh said that he expected to receive replies from the other parties today which would allow the commission to meet them tonight.

Asked if his party's failure to disclose the information on which it was calling for fresh elections was not losing it the propaganda battle, Hoyte said that he would not be baited by the challenge thrown out by the PPP/Civic. He said that his party was compiling its evidence for its election petition and would not be showing its hand before the appropriate time.

Hoyte said that his party was investigating reports that on the Essequibo, dates were being signed on the statements of poll and new tally sheets were being signed, since the original ones had been compromised as were the ballot boxes.