Chief Justice to hear DPP, Top Cop’s requests for SoPs, SoRs on Friday
Electoral fraud cases
An application filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, and Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie requesting certified copies of the Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs) comes up for hearing on Friday, May 14, 2021, before Chief Justice Roxane George.
Ahead of the hearing into APNU/AFC election petition #88, Justice George had ordered the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to hand over the original copies of the SoPs and SoRs to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Judicature, Sueanna Lovell, for safekeeping.
Following the conclusion of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections which were embroiled in controversy, several high-ranking GECOM officials were investigated by the Guyana Police Force. They are Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lownenfield, Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DECO) Roxanne Myers, and Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.
Police later sent a file to the chambers of the DPP which recommended charges for the trio. Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo were subsequently charged with several counts of misconduct in public office in relation to their conduct at the national elections.
Lowenfield was also charged with forgery for allegedly uttering forged documents on two occasions purporting to show that they were a true report of all the votes cast at the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.
They were all released on monetary bail pending the hearing and determination of their trial. In her application requesting certified copies of the documents, the DPP said that after charges were laid against the trio, she advised and instructed the Police to obtain certified copies of the SoRs and SoPs from GECOM as part of its probe and gathering evidence for presentation in court.
According to Ali-Hack, the SoPs and SoRs are necessary for the fair hearing of the charges as they constitute relevant evidence for the prosecution to prove the commission of the offences for which Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo are charged.
Pursuant to the Representation of the People Act, the DPP pointed out that SoPs are public records for which there is no restriction such as privacy, privilege, or secrecy. As such, she submitted, “There is no restriction to the Police obtaining them.”
“By the common law and statute, namely Section 50 of the Criminal Law (Procedure) Act, the Commissioner of Police and any member of the Police Force have the lawful right to collect and recover all documents and property which are relevant to the investigation and prosecution of any criminal offence,” the DPP further submitted.
After the elections concluded, Ali-Hack deposed that two election petitions were filed with the High Court and that on January 18, 2021, the Chief Justice ordered that the SoPs and SoRs in possession of Lowenfield be lodged with the Registrar of the High Court for safekeeping.
The Top Cop later wrote to the Registrar requesting certified copies of the documents but was informed by her that she is unable to provide them without a court order.
The DPP said that unofficial copies of the documents are in the public domain, and she believes that the original documents will confirm and show that certain numbers of cast votes were recorded on those documents and that together with other evidence will show that those charged deliberately ignored those recorded figures and made false declarations in furtherance of their conspiracy.
Additionally, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Chairperson Volda Lawrence and APNU/AFC activist Carol Joseph are also before the courts on electoral fraud charges. There are also electoral fraud charges against GECOM clerks Denise Bob-Cummings and Michelle Miller and GECOM Elections Officer Shefern February and Information Technology Officer Enrique Livan. They, too, have been released on bail.
Lowenfield’s report claimed that the APNU/AFC coalition garnered 171,825 votes while the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) gained 166,343 votes. How he arrived at those figures is still unknown.
The certified results from the recount exercise supervised by GECOM and a high-level team from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) pellucidly showed that the PPP/C won with 233,336 votes while the coalition garnered 217,920.
The recount exercise also proved that Mingo heavily inflated the figures in Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district – in favour of the then caretaker APNU/AFC regime. The DPP has since hired a team of special prosecutors consisting of about six attorneys-at-law to prosecute the electoral fraud cases on behalf of the State.