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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Boycott of polls would be counter-productive - say Sir Paul, Ambassador Ramdin

The Commonwealth Secre-tary General's Special Envoy to Guyana and the Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of the Americas States (OAS) have come out against a boycott of elections deeming it counter-productive with the potential to create confusion and chaos.

Special Envoy, Sir Paul Reeves and Assistant Secre-tary-General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin made their remarks at a well-attended public lecture on 'Elections and Democracy' at Le Meri-dien Pegasus last evening. The seminar was organised by the Private Sector Commis-sion in collaboration with trades unions, the Guyana Bar Association and the diplomatic corps.

There have been calls for a boycott of the upcoming elections by the African Cultural Development Association and civil society advocate/businessman Peter Ramsaroop based on a number of issues including outstanding constitutional reforms and the full implementation of agreements reached under the Herdmanston Accord.

Sir Paul said he saw no future in boycotts. "They would create confusion and, potentially, chaos. No one would gain from such a course of action.

"Some may think that outstanding issues from the Herdmanston process should be resolved prior to any election," he said. But added that, "such discussions need to take place in an environment not beset with doubt and anxiety. Now is not the time. I don't like the suggestion that settlement of outstanding Herd-manston issues be some sort of bargaining chip or precondition before elections could be held. Far from facilitating, such an action may unduly delay them."

Ramdin, who noted that the OAS has accepted the Guyana government's invitation to observe the upcoming election, said in spite of the fact that the notion of democracy, and what it encompasses, has evolved significantly over the past few decades, "the indispensable nature of holding free and fair elections remains undisputed."

He added that, "the alternative of not having elections or boycotting elections is generally counter-productive, costly and damaging, creating greater insecurity and instability for all in the society."

Ramdin said political will was needed to develop dialogue among the political parties and the main players in the political arena. He said, too, that there was need for transparency in the preparation and communication to build that trust and confidence and have joint responsibility in knowing that the future of the nation is in the hands of Guyanese. He reiterated that the alternative was costly and would damage the image of Guyana and the Caribbean region and would lead to economic instability and poverty.

Commenting on the possibility of violence at elections time, which is never far from anyone's mind, Sir Paul said he was "impressed by the restraint shown by all political parties and the wider society following the killing of Ronald Waddell."

He endorsed the calls that have been made for a full investigation. "I hope that responsible restraint and commitment will be characteristic of the elections when they take place," he added.

While in the country Sir Paul and Ambassador Ramdin will meet President Bharrat Jagdeo, PNCR Leader Robert Corbin, Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commis-sion Dr Steve Surujbally, political parties among others. (Miranda La Rose)

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