Election CoI: Commissioners visit Ashmins building on fact-finding mission

…shown locations of controversial events

In their quest for detailed information, the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Monday visited the Ashmins building, ground zero for the controversy that nearly derailed the tabulation of the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
Election CoI Commissioners, Retired Justices Stanley John, Godfrey Smith and Carl Singh, conducted the site visit of Ashmins building. They were accompanied by Sophia Chote, the Trinidadian Senior Counsel who has led questioning during the CoI hearings.

CoI witness, Dr Josh Kanhai describing the events that unfolded at the Ashmins building during the 2020 General and Regional Elections when Commissioners conducted a site visit on Monday

During the tour, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Edgar Thomas, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) IT Manager Aneal Giddings and then Election Observer Dr Josh Kanhai, were present to guide the Commissioners on exactly where certain key events occurred at Ashmins.
For instance, Giddings responded to questions from Chote and pointed out the area where persons were being hindered from delivering Statements of Poll (SoPs) to the then Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo.
“Approximately about where we’re standing, housed the offices for the Returning Officer for District Four… usually, they (persons delivering SoPs) came through the entrance in the rear. And I saw staff use this front entrance as well. And they would usually come and deliver the SoPs to the returning officer.”
“At the start, it was a smooth process, where the ROs would have come and delivered their Statements on their way. But at some point, I can’t recall exactly, they were hindered in delivering. A lot of them were arriving, at that point. So, they had to take up position here, with their packages,” Giddings said, noting that this was due to the RO’s office not functioning at the time.
Dr Kanhai, meanwhile, pointed out areas where other significant events happened, such as the door he helped breach to gain access to GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh. At the time, Singh was in a locked room with tinted windows, prompting alarm among observers and election agents that she might be in harm’s way.
Previous testimony at the CoI from Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Leader Lenox Shuman had pointed out that at one point the Chair was sequestered from everyone else in a locked room. Shuman recalled going after the Chair to ascertain whether she was okay.
“After the suspicions that she is being held captive… I personally feared some harm may come to the Chair of GECOM…,” Shuman had said, recounting that he was accompanied in his search for the Chair by Kanhai, who was then an executive of The New Movement (TNM). Kanhai was subsequently arrested that night, after he breached the door to get to the Chair.
ACP Thomas was quizzed by the Commissioners about the security and surveillance arrangements for Ashmins. In fact, the existence of cameras and a security room in the Ashmins building was a recurring question. However, it is a question that did not receive an affirmative answer.
The CoI resumed on Monday after an over two-week break that followed the testimonies of several witnesses. It was previously announced that the CoI’s work would continue from November 28, until the middle of December.
CoI Secretary Javeed Shadick, in an interview with the media, had explained that as the evidence unfolds, they may need to call back witnesses to clarify their testimonies, or even get more witnesses.
“It was taken to a good point, to pause, gather as much as we can and then, during this period, we’ve been working on speaking to the witnesses who’ve (testified), see if there is more information that they may have gotten,” Shadick had said.
He had also said that when the proceedings resume, they will be able to go in depth into more testimony. He also noted that the CoI is on track for its previously announced completion in January of 2023.
The last day the CoI was held, November 10, saw testimony from Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Chief Executive Officer Sase Singh, who was a scrutineer during that period, and Giddings. (G3)