CoI into 2020 elections rigging attempt officially established

…Chairman, Commissioners sworn in; ToR to be made public

Guyana is one step closer to investigating the controversial events that followed the 2020 General and Regional Elections, with the swearing-in of the presidential Commission of Inquiry (COI) at the Office of the President on Tuesday.

The three presidential CoI Commissioners. From left: former acting Justice of Appeal Godfrey P Smith; Retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John and former acting Chancellor of Guyana’s Judiciary, Carl Singh

The swearing in of the presidential Commission of Inquiry took place before Chief Magistrate Ann McClennan. Taking the oath of office was Retired Justice of Appeal Stanley John of Turks and Caicos, who will serve as Chairman of the CoI.
Also taking their oaths were former acting Justice of Appeal in the Eastern Caribbean and former Attorney General and Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Godfrey P Smith and former acting Chancellor of Guyana’s Judiciary, Carl Singh.
In an interview with the media after the swearing in, Attorney General Anil Nandlall explained that the Terms of Reference (ToR) are already complete and will be made public. He also detailed what the Government expects from the CoI.

Under severe threat
“First of all, it’s a promise made by the President. And the President is delivering on that promise. I believe the President in making the promise, would have explained the rationale for making the promise. Democracy is central to the rule of law and a civilised society.”

Afterwards, the Commissioners had a meeting with President Dr Irfaan Ali and Prime Minister, Brigadier (Retired) Mark Phillips

“Development cannot take place in the absence of the rule of law and/or democracy. Our democracy was under severe threat at the 2020 elections. We saw, the world saw, you all saw, flagrant attempts made to alter, unlawfully, the results of those elections,” he said.
The Attorney General noted that this must be investigated, so that those responsible can be held accountable and their misdeeds exposed. Additionally, he noted that this must form part of the permanent public record.
“If only for one objective. That there must never be a reoccurrence of what transpired at those elections. We have a sordid history, in terms of election rigging. And we have to move beyond that. We owe that to the next generation of Guyanese.”
“And this process, this Commission of Inquiry, is part of ensuring that this never happens again. It’s only part of the process. As you know, we are doing statutory electoral reforms and many other measures are being pursued so that what occurred on March 2nd, never occurs again.”
Asked about the cost of the CoI, Nandlall said that he was unsure at this time. However, he admitted that a CoI of this nature, with the calibre of Commissioners, would not be cheap. However, he said that with so much at stake, cost alone cannot determine the importance of the CoI.

Retired Justice Stanley John is currently serving as the Non-Resident Justice of Appeal, Turks and Caicos Islands. The former Justice presides over criminal and civil appeals from the Supreme Court.
Prior, he served as Temporary High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in Montserrat from April-July 2021.  He also served as Temporary High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands and Temporary High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in Antigua and Barbuda.

In addition to these, Retired Justice Stanley John was once a Puisne Judge in Trinidad and Tobago from 1994 to 2002 where he presided over criminal trials and headed the Criminal Division of the High Court.
Meanwhile, Godfrey Phillip Smith, SC, has served as Attorney General of Belize, a High Court Judge, and an acting Justice of Appeal in the Eastern Caribbean.
Each of the appointees has a track record of distinguished adjudication while leading major reforms and innovation to achieve efficiency in the business of resolving disputes.
Godfrey Phillip Smith, SC, has also served as Minister of Tourism & National Emergency Management, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, Attorney General & Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister of Belize, and a Member of the House of Representatives.
Currently, the Former Attorney General is Partner at Byron Smith, Arbitrators & Litigation Support Services and Senior Partner at Marine Parade Chambers, LLP, Attorneys-at-Law.
Following the prolonged elections and its attendant controversies, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) scrutinising team had recommended a political audit into the functioning of GECOM. President Ali had announced the CoI, adding that persons governing this operation should be drawn from Caricom, the Commonwealth or the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Since last year, Ali had indicated that his Government was “committed” to identifying the individuals responsible in the rigging attempts and pinpointing possible areas of weakness that can be used to guide the required strengthening of Guyana’s electoral system. This would be achieved through the Inquiry, to which stakeholder consultations were facilitated to select appropriate persons. (G3)