Appearing in the news today is a claim of having in possession original SOPs that showed the then incumbent won the March 2, 2020 elections (presumably from Region 4 since the other certification of the counts of the other nine regions showed then opposition PPP well ahead. The election law mandates that every party agent and polling agent be given an ‘original (duplicate) copy’ of the SOP duly signed by the presiding officer after the count and posted on the wall. So it is hardly any news that a person or party was in possession of the original SOP. All parties had the same original; the numbers for each agent in the corresponding SOP at each voting station would not be different. Anyone who claims possession of SOPs that showed their party won is an impossibility. I was there as a media agent and observer. I verified numbers on my own as each party would also have done.
A count and recount of the original SOPs in the March 2, 2020 elections revealed that the then opposition PPP won the elections. Any further recount of original SOPS would be an almost exact duplicate of the recount SOPs that showed the then opposition PPP won the elections.
I was in Guyana days before the election as well as for voting, counting of ballots, and certification of SOPs (aggregation of the counts for each region). I was at the counting certification building (Ashmin) from March 3 as an independent media observer/watcher and also visited it early on March 2 when there was hardly any activity.
I visited several polling stations in Regions 3, 4, and 5. There were some issues in the stronghold of one party in Greater Georgetown and on the East Coast during which there were attempts of skullduggery. These were limited in scope and the opposing party did not make ado about it.
On the evening of the elections, following the count of the ballots, numbers from the original SOPs (as posted on the door/wall) of the polling places were read to me by my contacts (agents/observers) from several polling stations in Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 10. The trend showed the incumbent lost ground and the PPP made gains everywhere and was on course to victory. The incumbent would have known that it lost from the preliminary count as presented to it by agents. On the very evening, I projected a PPP victory. In fact, queries to me from phone calls from North America and the Caribbean as well as in Guyana late that evening as well as on early Tuesday morning March 3, I stated the projections showed the PPP won.
The certification of SOPs for nine regions were completed and they corresponded with numbers given to me on Monday evening as posted at polling stations. What was disturbing was when Gecom officials delayed the certification of SOPs for Region 4. It was not until late in the day at Ashmin’s counting station that I realized that an attempt was being made to alter the results of the election. Numbers were being rattled at random that did not correspond with those on original SOPs from region 4. Officials were getting (feigning) sick and also seemingly fainting. Certification of results were stopped. There was the attempted spreadsheet fraud that was followed a day later by the bedsheet fraud. Attempts were also made to alter results on the computer. The region 4 official fraudulently declared results using the bedsheet fraud. It was done in a most shameful and transparent manner as the former Jamaican PM Bruce Golding (leading the OAS team) stated. This led to Caricom intervention and the recounting process.
I also observed the attempt to change numbers on the computer and when the laptop, when the input person disappeared, and when the laptop was moved out of the room to fudge numbers. There were so many acts of skullduggery that I observed. All of these were noted by the observers and diplomats. I was at a daily press conference by observers and or diplomats exposing attempts of fraud. I was also in the room at the Ashmin’s building when the Foreign Minister threatened withdrawal of accreditation status.
Observers were asked to assemble in a room for a meeting with the Foreign Minister who requested it. There, the FM threatened to withdraw accreditation status of the observers – that could have led to deportation. I vividly remember former Barbados PM Own Arthur, head of the Commonwealth team, taking the accreditation ID around his neck and handing it to the FM who politely walked away. Arthur said it was an insult. “We are not doing a job that can be threatened”, he stated emphatically.
Many observers complained that a Minister of government should not have visited the counting center and speak with observers while the counting was going on unless she was there as a rep of her party. She should not have assembled the observers. The counting was a sacrosanct process that should not have been violated by a Minister making threatening remarks to observers to behave themselves (read, accept the rigging).
As for the claim that the original SOPs of region 4 had showed a victory for the incumbent, why engaged in all the delays and acts of skullduggery. Why ask Caricom to intervene in the process? Why go to the High Court, Court of Appeal, CCJ? Why not simply present the SOPS to the world to show that they aligned with those presented to the other parties and observers on the evening of March 2? Why make it a secret?
The opposition should stop harping on the election outcome and engage in constructive dialogue. Instead of making a claim of victory that cannot be substantiated by the initial count, SOPs, and a recount, opposition figures should take measures to win back supporters that deserted the party that led to its defeat.
By Dr. Vishnu Bisram