Chief Legal Advisor to the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity +Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government, Attorney General Basil Williams is of the view that the nation’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield executed his duties with professionalism, integrity, impartiality and in conformity with the provisions of the Order governing the recount of all ballots cast in the March 02, 2020 elections. As a matter of fact, Williams is of the firm conviction that “any reasonable person” would also arrive at such a conclusion.
Williams’s assertions come one day after Lowenfield, in his report dated June 13, 2020, to Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), chairperson, retired Judge Claudette Singh, declared that the elections were not fair and credible. But the opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has argued that based on the “relevant portions” of the Order, Lowenfield has “no power or any mandate to offer a view, opinion or judgement of any type, either in the Observation Report or the Matrices to be tabulated”.
In his replicated conclusion for each electoral district, Lowenfield said, “Finally, the summation of the anomalies and instances of voter impersonation identified in District One clearly does not appear to satisfy the criteria of impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of the constitution and the ROPA Cap 1:03. Consequently, on the basis of the votes counted and the information furnished from the recount, it cannot be ascertained that the results from District One, Barima/Waini meet the standard of fair and credible elections.”
The Attorney General, in a press statement issued late last evening, said Lowenfield “has complied with the provisions of paragraph twelve (12) of Order No. 60 of 2020 made under article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution and section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 2000.” According to paragraph 12 of the Order published on May 04, 2020 in the Official Gazette, “The matrices for the recount of the 10 Electoral Districts shall then be tabulated by the Chief Elections Officer, and shall be submitted in a report, together with a summary of the observations reports for each, District to the Commission.”
Turning his attention to the PPP/C, Williams said that the main Opposition party, has again remained true to form, purported to attack Lowenfield contending that he could not in his report “…offer a view, opinion or judgment, either in the Observation Report or Matrices to be tabulated”. In the eyes of the Attorney General, this contention is highly erroneous and spurious and it is because the PPP/C refuses to acknowledge the third component in paragraph 12 that the other two components were to be submitted in a report.
Williams highlighted that “report” is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of English as meaning “to give a written account of something that one has observed, done or investigated.” He added, “It is pellucid that it is contemplated that the CEO in addition to tabulating and summarizing is expected in giving his ‘report’ to express his views, opinions and judgments on his observations and investigations done, in that dual process.”
Moreover, Williams said that it is implied in summarizing the Observation Reports (ORs), that the CEO is expected to bring his mind to bear on what he would include or exclude and would be therefore expressing a view or opinion on the ORs. Added to that, he further said that on a proper reading of paragraph 12, one cannot find such restrictions on the exercise of the CEO’s functions thereunder as contended by the PPP/C.
According to him, “Their [PPP/C] allegation that [Lowenfield’s] report is ultra vires, unconstitutional and the like is reminiscent of the wild recourse to the High Court, claiming that the Returning Officer of Electoral District Four (4) [Clairmont Mingo] was in Contempt of Court, but which was thrown out by the learned Chief Justice, Madam Roxane George- Wiltshire.”
It should be noted that the Contempt of Court case against Mingo, and others was not thrown out by the Chief Justice. But rather, the Chief Justice granted an application by former Attorney General and PPP/C Executive Member, Anil Nandlall, who on behalf of his late driver, Reaz Hollader, made an application to have the case withdrawn and discontinued. At no point did the Chief Justice make a ruling on the substantive matter. Justice George, however, did pronounce that the evidence in the case was “very, very deficient”; Nandlall conceded and was ordered to pay $450,000 in Court Costs to the Respondents in the case.
The Attorney General therefore concluded that any reasonable person would conclude that the CEO executed his duties with professionalism, integrity, impartiality and in conformity with provisions of paragraph 12 of the Order. Justice Claudette Singh is expected to make a declaration of the final results for elections tomorrow, Tuesday, June 16, 2020.