New oil producer Guyana is being urged to avoid sanctions from the international community over its March 2 elections at all cost since such measures could have far-reaching effects that would be damaging to the country’s growth and development.
Several international organisations and countries, including the United States, have urged Guyana to avoid installing a government based on elections results that are not credible, following claims that the tabulation of results for the largest district in the country was fraudulent. Now, a recount of all votes is underway.
Speaking from Washington on the radio programme – Room 592 – aired on Kaieteur Radio in Georgetown on Monday evening, Sir Ronald Sanders explained in detail what the nature of sanctions could be and how they would affect the new oil producing country. He said Guyana can be expelled from the Commonwealth in the same way other countries such as Pakistan and Zimbabwe have been dealt with for violating the Charter.
“It suspended Zimbabwe, which remains suspended from the Commonwealth to this day. It suspended Fiji twice, again for elections and for military coups, for putting in place Governments that were not elected. And if it turns out that the result of the recount that is happening in Guyana now does not produce a Government that is reflective of the majority vote of that recount, then I am afraid Guyana will go before the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and action will be taken,” he told hosts Leonard Gildarie and Yog Mahadeo.
The Guyana-born Caribbean academic said Guyana is likely to be raised before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) if the election results do not produce the leadership of the country that comes out of the majority vote of the recount. “And, that means Guyana risks also being suspended from the Organization of American States, but not just being suspended, the Organization of American States will also have to determine what other action it may take at a bilateral level of its 33 Member States acting against Guyana. And it will only take one or two of those countries to decide that sanctions should be imposed and remember – both the United States and Canada are members of the OAS – for other countries to follow.”
He stressed that contrary to the view by some that sanctions do not matter, they do, “because they give the country a stench and a taint that is not good for it. It also removes you from yet another international organisation. So, you are not part of the Commonwealth and you are not part of the most influential hemispheric organization in our hemisphere and that is the OAS. So, those things matter.”
Sanders, who is currently Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and non-resident High Commissioner to Canada, said bilateral sanctions could also be taken which would see countries refusing to issue visas “to some persons who are participants to what they might consider to be electoral fraud. Those persons will have their visas seized.” As the sanctions escalate, he said it could lead to a situation where their properties, if they have any in Canada and the United States, could be frozen and they won’t have access to bank accounts and anything they own.
“And then of course it could spread to their families because the way in which this works is people calculate that people who are sanctioned will move their property–including their money–into the hands of their close family members. That’s not an escape route because your close family members are also subject to that kind of thing,” Sanders pointed out.
He said assuming officials still remain in government at this point, “and decide they are going to run the country as they wish, even though not with the will of the people” there will be other sanctions then against their government activity.
“And it will start with sanctions against state owned enterprise. And that will mean sanctions against any enterprise in Guyana that happens to own oil. The money that would have come to that state enterprise will get frozen and the Guyana Government would not be able to touch it. Now, I am not making this up you can look at the history of several other countries including neighbouring Venezuela to see what has happened to their assets as sanctions have escalated against them. But ultimately, you are a pariah state,” Sanders said.
Following the elections, local and international observers, including the Carter Center, OAS, local observer groups and all the contesting parties, including the incumbent APNU+AFC coalition, had said the conduct of polling day was free and fair. The troubles began on March 4 when the method used to tabulate the District Four results deviated from the legal standard to produce an outcome that placed the coalition party in the lead. Although a court ordered that the tabulation be redone in compliance with the law, the process was again tainted by a lack of transparency which led to threats by the international community of serious consequences for the country should a government be sworn in based on those results.
The recount of all votes cast has been progressing, but not without controversy, since the incumbent coalition party now claims the polling day process was compromised and the results may not be credible. The process, which is being overlooked by a special team from regional body CARICOM, could conclude by weekend and the elections body will have to make a determination on the outcome by June 16.