Last weekend brought a remarkably abrupt conclusion to Guyana’s election saga, with the opposition PPP party coming out on top. Perhaps it was the international diplomatic pressure that forced the Coalition’s hand. If only the pandemic would abate as quickly…
In this issue of our regular Guyana SITREP, we also look at a worrisome rise in COVID-19 cases and some high-profile crimes.
On the 30th July the Appeal Court of Guyana issued an unanimous dismissal of the Coalition’s application to overturn the High Court’s ruling. The High Court’s ruling had stipulated the entire tabulated figures from the National Recount be used to declare the results of the General Election. The Appeal Court’s dismissal paved the way forward for the Electoral body, GEOCOM, to formally declare the opposition party, The Peoples Progressive Party Civic, the winners of the National Elections.
Following a GEOCOM meeting on the morning of August 3rd, as per the constitutional process, the body’s CEO Keith Lowenfield submitted his elections report to the Chairwoman, Ret. Justice Claudette Singh, who subsequently issued formal notice to the Chancellor of the Judiciary that His Excellency President Dr. Irfan Ali was to be sworn in as the 9th elected President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
President Irfan Ali was then promptly sworn into office at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at 1630 pm on August 2nd. This date marked an exact five months since the highly contentious March 2nd national election.
The long awaited completion of electoral process has understandably raised Guyana’s risk profile, exacerbating a tense environment amid the pandemic. Whilst there have been warranted fears of racial division caused by the election dispute, last week’s public celebrations of Emancipation Day and Eid al Korban, demonstrated the overriding desire of the majority of Guyanese to return to living in peaceful unity.
Leaders from across the political spectrum made efforts to send community messages regarding both public holidays. This concerted effort contributed to the theme of inclusiveness and diversity that all stakeholders of Guyana’s development recognize will be pivotal as the country begins to move forward. President Ali issued several statements supportive of this theme via online, TV, and local papers which were well received by the local media.
Such sentiments were echoed by the international community following the formal declaration of a Peoples Progressive Party Civic win of the elections. The Organization of American States (OAS), having convened a special July 27 meeting regarding Guyana’s electoral process, issued its congratulations to President Dr. Ali. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro urged that electoral reform remain high on the agenda for the new Government.
In addition to a joint statement released by the ABC Foreign Missions in Guyana – the Commonwealth community & CARICOM expressed their goodwill and continued support for Guyana now that the election proceedings have come to a conclusion.
Election related security disturbances remain a concern in territory at present. Outside of emergency measures in place for COVID-19, the Administration is still operating on a 1/12th budget, which continues to put a strain on public security forces as street robberies, burglaries, murders, and road traffic incidents continue to rise in country.
Despite borders being closed, exposed migrant risk to Human Trafficking was highlighted last week, with the country’s Counter Trafficking in Persons Unit announcing it had identified 43 cases from January to July 2020. The offshoot risks from this activity were also brought to the forefront as a shooting at a strip club in Georgetown (which are prime targets for traffickers) left one person dead and four injured. Notably, the shooting occurred at 4am, alluding to a continued lapse in COVID-19 risk prevention protocols.
On August 1st the home of Kevin Lorrimer located in Linden, Region 2 was destroyed in a suspected arson attack. Mr. Lorrimer is a Coalition activist and was a regional candidate for the APNU+AFC coalition in the March 2nd National Elections.
Former Minister Simone Broomes reported that she was threatened by individuals armed with a firearm and hammer at her residence early in the morning of 3rd August. Ms Broomes proceeded to follow the alleged assailant in her vehicle and live stream the events via facebook live. Video footage of the incident was widely circulated through social media platforms, with Ms Broomes loudly indicating that the damage to her property and alleged threats were politically motivated.
On August 2nd, The Ministry of Public Health reported that the number of COVID-19 cases in Guyana had increased by 44 in 24 hours. This is the largest confirmed daily increase since the outbreak reached Guyana in February. The total number of confirmed cases in Guyana now stands at 474 persons testing positive for the virus, with 21 fatalities, and 268 active cases in institutional isolation at various facilities across Guyana.
These figures suggest a recent acceleration of the pandemic’s local spread, considering the projections from ten days ago of one thoughtful Guyanese expat.
To date, 185 persons have recuperated from COVID-related illnesses, 38 persons remain in institutional quarantine, and presently there are 3 patients housed in the COVID-19 ICU situated at Georgetown Public Hospital.
Religious places of worship have been permitted to resume services from August 1st, providing that vicinities stick to 25% occupancy rule and ensure social distancing protocols are in place during sermons.
The country wide curfew from 6am to 8pm has been extended until August 15th. Both regulation and enforcement of the curfew remains both a policing and social challenge – while largely adhered to by retail outlets and places of business – social gatherings, where the adornment of masks is noticeably absent, continue to pose an infection risk amid local communities.
The Cheddi Jagan (CJIA) and Eugene F. Correia (OGLE) International Airports remain close to all international flights except for outgoing flights, cargo flights, medical evacuation, technical stops for fuel only and special authorized flights.