2006 April 24


1. U) SUMMARY. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECO) says it cannot deliver elections by the Auust 4 constitutional due date and will not be ready before August 30. This raises thorny constitutional questions about Guyana's governance after August 4. GECOM has also failed to set a new election date, which leaves the process in limbo. Making matters worse, the three opposition election commissioners have "withdrawn" from GECOM, further disrupting the process. President Bharrat Jagdeo and opposition leader Robert Corbin met April 19 - an encouraging sign - but did not achieve a breakthrough. As it currently stands, if key compromises are not reached by May 4 when Parliament dissolves, Guyana will be left with neither a legislature nor an election date. END SUMMARY. --------------------------------------------- --------- It's Official: No Elections by Constitutional Deadline --------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) GECOM decided April 12 that it cannot meet the August 4 constitutional deadline for elections and, furthermore, cannot deliver elections before August 30. However, GECOM stopped short of declaring a new election date, leaving the election timeline in disarray. In the absence of official word, several rumors are circulating Georgetown about when elections might be held. The donor-funded Joint International Technical Assessor (JITA) who monitors GECOM's activities told PolOff that GECOM is capable of delivering elections by August 31 and that any failure to do so will only be the result of "deliberate sabotage" by political forces who do not want elections to take place. --------------------------------------------- ------- Sulking Opposition Commissioners Withdraw from GECOM --------------------------------------------- -------

3. (SBU) The three opposition-nominated GECOM commissioners announced April 15 that they had "withdrawn" - but did not resign - from GECOM. (Note: Actually resigning would entail financial hardships such as having to retroactively pay duty on their imported duty-free personal vehicles.) They cited GECOM Chairman Steve Surujbally's misleading and non-transparent management style as the reason why they could no longer work with him. The commissioners have made their point, storming away from the table but preserving the option to return.

4. (SBU) The commissioners and GECOM staff have often expressed their frustration with Surujbally in the past five years. But the real impetus for their action now is that Surujbally voted with the PPP-nominated commissioners to proceed with printing of the Preliminary List of Electors, a step the opposition opposes. Casting the tie-breaking (4 to 3) vote was unprecedented and it paves the way for the Claims and Objections exercise to begin May 2. Proceeding with Claims and Objections now is critical if elections are to be held without additional delay.

5. (SBU) Where does this leave the elections process? The absence of opposition commissioners might make it easier for GECOM to make urgently needed decisions - the constitution allows the remaining three commissioners and the Chairman to form a quorum. But this would give the opposition parties a very convenient excuse for disowning and discrediting the election process at a later date. Corbin made this perfectly clear in declaring that "the elections commission is treading on dangerous ground" if it plans to make decisions about elections without the opposition commissioners. --------------------------------------------- ----- Jagdeo, Corbin Meet: A First Step Towards Dialogue --------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) President Jagdeo met with opposition leader Robert Corbin April 19, a step that post and other donors have been urging for months. The upshot was an agreement to establish a four-person team to assess the constitutional implications of the now inevitable delay of elections beyond their August 4 due date. This team will be comprised of two from each side - reported to be Attorney-General Doodnauth Singh and Speaker of Parliament Ralph Ramkarran on one side, with PNC/R Chairman Winston Murray and senior counsel Rex McKay on the other. Ramkarran and Murray command some respect as independent-minded politicians, but it is difficult to foresee how a structure that pits the two parties evenly against each other will bring any resolution to the extremely contentious constitutional questions at play.

7. (SBU) The Jagdeo-Corbin meeting, although a useful first step in reestablishing dialogue, does not mean that compromise is in the offing. The opposition PNC/R's weekly statement April 20 flatly sets out its position - Jagdeo and his cabinet cannot hold office after August 4 without a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly. This further supports post's view that the opposition's strategy remains the same - to trade its support for a constitutional amendment in exchange for full house-to-house verification as a concession.

8. (SBU) Baroness Amos, leader of the UK House of Lords and Tony Blair confidante, will visit her native Guyana the weekend of April 29-30 following the UK-CARICOM summit in Barbados. She plans to use the occasion to talk some sense into Guyana's political leaders - and not a moment too soon as the Parliament dissolves May 4, at which time Guyana will have neither a legislature nor an election date. --------------------------------------------- ----- Continued Veiled Threats by Opposition Troublesome --------------------------------------------- -----

9. (C) The PNC/R also launched another personal broadside against Surujbally in its April 20 statement, accusing him of "pursuing a dangerous program of deception". In the wake of the April 22 assassination of GoG cabinet-member Satyadeow Sawh (septel), this type of rhetoric is no laughing matter. Surujbally, who has been the focus of verbal attacks by opposition politicians for months, recently confided to Ambassador that he considers himself a "dead man walking".

10. (C) The PNC/R leaders have made a habit of peppering their public statements with references to the chaos and violence that will ensue if election preparations continue on their current path. Of course, they point to other uncontrollable, unnamed elements as the sources of such unrest. Post believes these veiled threats are irresponsible and inflammatory, giving succor to those who want to disrupt the election process. Post will devise and seek Department concurrence on tactics to be used against political parties that directly or indirectly promote election-related violence. -------- Comment --------

11. (SBU) Guyanese bristle at comparisons between their country and Haiti. Yet, as one letter-writer put it recently in the Stabroek News, Guyana "is suffering from gross managerial incompetence" if after five years and US$15 million, GECOM cannot deliver an election for less than 500,000 voters on time. Recent events underscore GECOM's fundamentally flawed structure where the politically appointed commissioners are put in straightjackets by their political masters.

12. (SBU) Comment continued. GECOM made a critical mistake when it failed to set a new election date when announcing August 4 was no longer achievable. We are now in a state of limbo. GECOM staff are moving ahead with preparations for an August 31 poll date. But as far as the opposition parties are concerned, nothing can happen until a full house-to-house verification exercise is agreed to and a deal is struck on post May 4 governance. And so with each passing week that these fundamental issues go unresolved, Guyana heads closer to a Haiti-like scenario of election delays. End comment. BULLEN

Original Post

2006 April 24



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Cabinet member and People's Progressive Party (PPP) insider Satyadeow Sawh was gunned down at his home April 22 in an apparent targeted assassination. Most observers detect a political link behind the killing. Regardless of the motive, this adds more fuel to the fire as pre-election tensions continue rising in Guyana. President Jagdeo plans to request external assistance in tracking down those responsible. END SUMMARY --------------------------------------- Sawh: An Uncontroversial Cabinet Figure ---------------------------------------

2. (U) Satyadeow Sawh, Minister of Agriculture (acting), Fisheries, Other Crops and Livestock, was murdered at approximately 12:30 a.m. April 22 at his home in La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara. Indications are that six to ten masked men armed with AK-47s invaded Sawh's premises and killed Sawh, two siblings, and a security guard. Three others were injured; Sawh's wife was unharmed.

3. (U) Sawh was a jocular, well-liked, fifty year-old dual national of Guyana and Canada, where he spent much of his adult life and remained politically active in the PPP's overseas arm. After the PPP won the 1992 national election he served as Guyana's ambassador in Caracas. Sawh returned to Guyana in 1996, taking a seat in the National Assembly and assuming a cabinet position through the Fisheries, Other Crops and Livestock portfolio. He took on the additional responsibility of acting Minster of Agriculture in 2003, but did not appear to have higher political ambitions. His handling of severe flooding in coastal agricultural areas in early 2006 drew some criticism. --------------------------------------------- -- Motive Unclear but Signs Point to Assassination --------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) Various theories are circulating about what is behind the killings, but these reflect more conjecture than hard evidence. Even Jagdeo and his Police Commissioner Winston Felix have different opinions - Jagdeo sees a political motive while Felix suspects robbery. Sawh's killing does bear marks of a political assassination. It comes on the heels of the April 6 murder of prominent local contractor Gazz Sheermohamed and the January 30 murder of talk-show host Ronald Waddell (ref C) in a similar fashion. Robbery does not appear to have been a primary motive in any of these cases. Sawh's killers did not take much from his house; Sheermohamed's killers left a large amount of cash in the car where he was shot. -- One theory is that militant anti-government elements are behind the Sawh and Sheermohamed killings in a bid to provoke chaos. This, according to their twisted logic, would lure the international community into taking a more active role in Guyana's internal politics and lead to the imposition of a shared government model. The fact that Sawh's assailants came and left on foot supports this theory - Buxton, notorious as the nucleus of armed resistance against the government, is only three miles from Sawh's LBI home. This is certainly the PPP's line: in his April 22 address to the nation, Jagdeo urged Guyanese "to prevent extremists from hijacking the political agenda". The Cabinet has also announced its concern that the attack might be "part of a sinister plot to impact the outcome" of the upcoming elections. -- A second theory is that these killings are somehow related to the victims' involvement in unspecified criminal activity. Such rumors about prominent Guyanese are commonplace. Although Sawh's work did bring him into contact with some very suspect individuals, most observers feel he was relatively clean. -- A third theory is that Sawh's killing was a random armed robbery. But few believe this given the operation's efficiency and the use of assault rifles unavailable to the GEORGETOWN 00000372 002 OF 002 common criminal in Guyana.

5. (U) Elections are due in 2006 and Guyana has a long history of violence around election time. This year is shaping up no differently. Brazen robberies are occurring more frequently, often in broad daylight. The levels of lawlessness and fear in Guyana are rising sharply. In late February, over thirty AK-47s and other powerful weapons were found missing from an army storehouse; then a heavily-armed group conducted a paramilitary-style operation in the Eccles and Agricola communities, executing eight after blockading the road to the international airport (ref A). Emerging reports indicate ballistic tests confirm that weapons used in Sawh's killing match those used in the Eccles/Agricola operation.

6. (U) Several organizations, including the main opposition party PNC/R, have issued statements condemning the killings. Post plans to coordinate with the UK, Canadian, EU, and UN missions to issue a joint statement condemning these acts of violence, similar to the statement made after Waddell's murder.

7. (U) Post's Emergency Action Committee (EAC) met April 22 at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the killing and its implications (reported septel). ------- Comment -------

8. (SBU) Although Sawh's killing has horrified Georgetown, it has not truly surprised the political set. Post's interlocutors have warned for over a year that the upcoming election season would bring with it political violence. No one expects this to be the final salvo, although one hopes the ruling PPP will resist the temptation to use Sawh's killing to reap political gain by pinning this on the opposition without hard evidence. The mood in Georgetown is marked both by somber introspection and by indignation with the security forces' inability to solve - let alone prevent - any of this year's execution-style killings. Calling Sawh's death the first assassination of a government minister in Guyana's history, the independent Stabroek News' April 23 editorial stated flatly, "We have crossed the Rubicon". Others are echoing this theme - vigilante justice rules in Guyana, which now resembles a big ranch more than a nation-state. Felix will come under ever greater scrutiny and pressure to resign until he can demonstrate tangible progress in solving these cases. It is certainly in the USG's interest to provide whatever assistance possible to help the overwhelmed police force in its investigations. END COMMENT. BULLEN

Django take a read here bhai. 

Guyana took a tremendous and important leap in 2006 when the national elections were declared to be free, fair and peaceful for the first time since Independence. The struggle to attain this goal was long and hard and has left its mark on every aspect of our common life.
We continue to suffer from the effects of ethnic suspicion, economic stagnation and a general loss of vision. And always the main casualty is Guyana which we all pretend to love.
The Electoral Assistance Bureau by its involvement with the electoral process over the past fifteen years has put us all in its debt by its active support of one of the main pillars of good governance, namely a fair electoral system.
The opportunity to build on what has been achieved now beckons once again and this may well be our last chance to attain the social, political and economic goals we all seek as a nation.
Rt. Rev. Bishop Randolph George Bishop of Guyana



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