The nation’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield was yesterday directed by Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Judge Claudette Singh to prepare his elections report based on the data generated from the National Recount to the Commission by 13:00hrs tomorrow, Thursday, June 18, 2020.
Justice Singh has officially directed that the report for the declaration of a final result be prepared pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act.
Reacting to Justice Singh’s instructions was APNU+AFC Co-Campaign Manager, Joseph Harmon, who during an interview posted on his party’s official Facebook page, said that based on his understanding, Sections 96 of the Representation of the People Act requires Lowenfield to submit a report on only the valid votes cast in the March 02, 2020 General and Regional elections to the Chairperson for her declaration.
Harmon said, too, that he is still to see what will be the further directions via letter that will be given to Lowenfield by Justice Singh, as well as his response.
According to him, “The point that is to be made is that we had the process of a recount which lasted for over 33 days and that persons were out there working every single day for 33 days. And therefore, if we were to say that, that work is not to be considered even though the gazetted Order requires it to be then certainly we would have to see what the letter says. But in my view the CEO cannot declare anything other than valid votes, and in his determination of what are valid votes we would like to see those reports of the CEO reflected in the way those votes are tallied.”
The incumbent APNU+AFC government has been calling on GECOM to investigate reports of dead people and those who have migrated voting in the Opposition, PPP/C strongholds. The coalition party has also been asking GECOM to probe instances of missing polling documents from ballot boxes from PPP/C strongholds along the East Coast of Demerara.
But, Justice Singh has asserted that GECOM does not have the powers of a court of law to examine and re-examine witnesses or to procure official documents to determine the truth of the allegations.
The Chairperson posited that she is of the opinion that some of the allegations are of a serious nature and must be addressed. However, she noted that Article 163 (1) (b) of the Constitution confers on the High Court exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of an election; the aggrieved party would have to file an election petition within 28 days after the final result is declared.
In Harmon’s view, Justice Singh’s direction to Lowenfield is very convoluted, and it has left a lot of people confused as to what is her ruling.
He said, “… I believe that the Chairman gave a very convoluted decision which still has to be interpreted and I believe that she herself recognizes that and has actually said that I will give the CEO further instructions in writing. So we have to see what instructions they are. No elections in Guyana can be determined on votes that are not valid and this was the whole purpose of the recount; to determine the valid votes that were cast at the elections.”
As far as Harmon is concerned, there has been no declaration as to the winner or loser of the elections since this final determination will only be made when Justice Singh writes the CEO, and he interprets it, and responds in a way that the Guyanese people can understand.
Taking this into consideration, Harmon pointed out that the CEO always has to act in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of this country and therefore cannot make a submission that is unlawful “so he has to be aware of that and certainly has to send to the Chairman for declaration what is considered valid votes that were cast at these elections.”
In his report dated Saturday, June 13, 2020 to the Commission, Lowenfield asserted that the elections were not “fair and credible.”
Speaking about the results for Region One, 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.”
This conclusion was replicated throughout the report regarding all regions.
However, the report of the three-member CARICOM team which observed and scrutinized the recount contradicted Lowenfield’s report.
As a matter of fact, the CARICOM observer team concluded that the recount of the votes cast in the elections reflect the will of the people and provide a basis for the declaration of results.
The CARICOM team comprised Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI); and John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission.