OAS to help revamp electoral system

Stabroek News
February 25, 1998

The Organisation of American States (OAS) will provide assistance to Guyana to address the flaws in its electoral system, according to its Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria.

Speaking with reporters at an early evening press conference at Herdmanston House on Monday, Gaviria said that the assistance, which would commence after the audit of the December 15, elections, included sourcing funds from the international community to finance some of the measures needed to improve the system.

Gaviria said that the report of the OAS observer mission on Guyana's December 15 elections, to be published next week, contained a number of recommendations for addressing the flaws in the system. He said that some of the flaws identified were logistical, but that there was need for a permanent electoral body with a full-time head as well as a revamping of the national registration system.

Gaviria said that in his discussions with President Janet Jagan and other government officials, with whom he had had a breakfast meeting on Monday, he expressed the willingness of the OAS to help make the electoral system more reliable. He added that he had also discussed this with the People's National Congress (PNC) leader, Desmond Hoyte.

Gaviria described the exchange of ideas with the PNC leader as frank, during which Hoyte had raised concerns about an internal report prepared by an advance team before the arrival of the OAS observer mission. The report had caused some concern, as it had questioned the competence of the Elections Commission to deliver free, fair and transparent elections. It had also predicted that there would have been no clear winner and that the OAS mission could have played a useful role in getting the parties to agree to a coalition government.

The observer mission, which was headed by St Lucia's former ambassador to the OAS, Dr Joseph Edmonds, repudiated the report. The mission also described the polling on December 15, as free, fair and transparent. However, it made no comment on the problems which developed in the system after December 15.

Asked to respond to criticisms of the OAS by the New York-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, for failing to react to the political crisis which developed after Guyana's recent elections, Gaviria merely pointed out that the OAS's respect for the sovereignty of its 34 member states was the best approach. Gaviria was in Guyana for a two-day official visit during which he met President Jagan and other government ministers and attended the Flag-raising ceremony at the National Park on Sunday. On Monday, he was guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by Colombian Ambassador, Luis Guillermo Fernandes, at Le Meridien Pegasus, and a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee, at the New Thriving Restaurant on Main Street. He also launched the local OAS 50th Anniversary Committee, which will plan a programme of activities in April to mark the milestone.

In his meeting with President Jagan, the OAS-funded projects in Guyana were reviewed.