In spite of the excuses recently proffered by agents of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), former Head of the Guyana Bar Association, Kamal Ramkarran, is of the firm conviction that nothing prevents GECOM from doing a public broadcast of the March 2 General and Regional Elections recount.
In laying the foundation for his perspective, Ramkarran reminded that the results of the elections are contained in the Statements of Poll which are already separately in the possession of the Chief Election Officer, the Returning Officers for each electoral district, and in the hands of Presiding Officers and Polling Agents for the political parties.
The lawyer said that simply releasing those Statements of Poll, which are public documents, would let Guyanese know the basis for a genuine declaration of results. In his recent writings to the daily newspapers he said, “Nothing prevents the Elections Com-mission from doing this. But, as we are here, a public broadcast will ensure that the recount is done transparently and, if it is not, we will all know why. Were we all not aware of what is happening, we would find it strange that the Elections Commission has refused to permit a public broadcast of the recount. Transparency is the hallmark of free and fair elections and all normal electoral bodies usually want to show that they are acting transparently.”
Further to this, Ramkarran said that the “strange excuse” by individuals such as GECOM Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, that the law does not permit a public broadcast of the recount is just that, an excuse. The lawyer contended that the Representation of the People’s Act provides for the maintenance of secrecy at the counting of votes. He noted however that this does not explicitly apply to recounts. And, in any event, Ramkarran said that the proposed recount is not being done under that Act but under the wide powers given to the Elections Commission by the Constitution to issue such instructions and take such action as will ensure fairness, impartiality and compliance with the law and the Constitution.
Ramkarran said that this power is distinct from the power to order a recount under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act. Expounding further, he asserted that a recount under that Act was refused by the Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo. And, like his decision to declare results without complying with the provisions of that Act despite a Court order, he recalled that the decision has not been rescinded by the Commission, although it has the power to do so.
Ramkarran said, “If the recount is not being done under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, where Mr Alexander no doubt found his excuse, then that Act does not apply to the recount. While the Elections Commission may utilize the procedures for recounts set out in the Representation of the People Act for convenience, the Constitution sets no limits to the wide powers given to the Commission to ensure fairness and impartiality.”
Even if there were some law that placed an obstacle in the way of publicly broadcasting a recount, Ramkarran strongly contended that that law would be subject to being declared void as being inconsistent with the Constitution since the Constitution specifically permits the Elections Commission to issue instructions and take action for fairness and impartiality.
In addition, the lawyer said he is quite sure that Alexander knows the Elections Commission has the power to amend any such a law to remove obstacles in its way while Parliament is dissolved.