Commissioner backs calls for audit, CoI into GECOM
…says too many unanswered questions, nation deserves answers
Noting that there are at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) many unresolved issues that need to be addressed, at least one commissioner has backed calls for an audit and Commission of Inquiry to be launched into the operation of that electoral organisation.
From December 2018 to August 2020, GECOM was the centre of controversy, allegations and drama relating to the holding of General and Regional Elections. The Commission’s normal business was put on the back burner while elections, which should have been held in three months, were dragged out for over a year.
In an interview with this publication on Wednesday, Government-nominated GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj backed calls for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) and a political audit into the electoral agency.
Gunraj also noted that the nation deserves answers on why there was such flagrant disregard for the law following the elections.
According to the commissioner, this is important if confidence in GECOM is to be restored.
“I would love to see an audit into the operation of GECOM in several areas. As we speak, there are spirited discussions at the Commission in relation to remuneration and HR policies. That’s one aspect that an audit or commission of inquiry can touch on,” he disclosed.
“Then there is the other aspect I touched upon – the reasons why there was flagrant disregard for the law governing the operations of GECOM,” he also said.
According to Gunraj, a COI must get to the bottom of why Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo made, on March 5, a declaration of results which did not follow the statutory process for including stakeholders.
Moreover, Gunraj pointed out that this COI or audit must determine why Mingo declared numbers that differed from those on the Statements of Poll (SOPs) that ought to have been available to him -statements which had shown that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had won the elections by over 15,000 votes.
“All of which actions were deemed unlawful by the court. But even in the face of rulings of the court, that his actions were unlawful, he nevertheless (subsequently) proceeded to do the very thing the court ruled unlawful. So, when he switched from faulty spreadsheets to a dirty bed sheet to purport to display statements of poll, he was all along engaging in acts that flew in the face of the ruling of the Chief Justice,” Gunraj said.
Additionally, Gunraj noted that a COI must delve into why Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield went on to rely on Mingo’s declaration to prepare a report to submit to the commission, even clashing with the instructions of GECOM Chair, retired Justice Claudette Singh.
“After a recount that lasted 30 days, Lowenfield took those results that were witnessed by the entire world: by CARICOM, by stakeholders and observers, and he sought to take those results from the Statements of Recount and mangle them,” Gunraj said.
“And it was not as if those results prepared by Mingo and Lowenfield were designed with various outcomes in mind. They were all designed to provide a plurality of votes for one particular party,” Gunraj said.
After the passage of a No Confidence Motion (NCM) in December 2018, GECOM spent over a year trying to get ready for snap elections that should have been held by March 2019. GECOM finally held General and Regional Elections on March 2nd 2020.
But as if the previous delay were not enough, Guyanese were forced to wait another five months before the results could finally be declared by GECOM on August 2nd, 2020, after local and international pressure.
In the aftermath of the controversial five-month-long elections, a number of high- ranking GECOM officials have been investigated by the Police and charged for misconduct in public office and for forgery.
They include Lowenfield, who on October 12 was slapped with six charges by the Police relating to forgery and misconduct in public office pertaining to his alleged role in the attempts to rig the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The CEO is being accused of attempting to undermine the will of the people by repeatedly refusing to submit the verified results from the National Recount to Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Retired Justice Claudette Singh, for a final declaration.
The national recount exercise showed that the PPP/C won the elections with 233,336 votes. But Lowenfield had repeatedly refused to submit his final elections report with those figures, despite being so directed by the GECOM Chair on several occasions.
Lowenfield eventually complied, paving the way for the declaration and subsequent swearing in of the new Government on August 2, 2020 – five months after elections were held.
Also before the courts are Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo and Deputy CEO Roxanne Myers.
Following the elections and its attendant controversies, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) scrutinizing team had recommended a political audit into the functioning of GECOM.
Additionally, President Dr Irfaan Ali has said that an independent Commission of Inquiry into GECOM would be launched, with the findings helping to move the process forward. (G3)