GECOM Chair has wide powers to surpass Lowenfield – Ramkarran
…if CEO tries to resubmit fraudulent report
Experienced constitutional lawyer and Senior Counsel, Ralph Ramkarran has made it clear that Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is not bound to accept any report its Chief Elections Officer (CEO) submits.
In an interview with this publication, Ramkarran made it clear that Article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution of Guyana grants GECOM Chairperson Claudette Singh all the power she needs to ensure a declaration of the election results is made, with or without CEO Keith Lowenfield’s cooperation.
“The Chairman has the power under Article 162 to take steps, broad powers to take such actions as is necessary to avoid partiality… take steps as necessary, to ensure compliance with laws and the Constitution.”
He pointed out that it states: “that Constitution shall issue instructions and take such actions as appear to it necessary and expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or any act of Parliament. So the Commission has full powers to override any skullduggery by Mr Lowenfield.”
Asked what are his expectations regarding the CEO, Ramkarran was pellucid that he has no illusions or faith where Lowenfield is concerned. However, the onus will be on Claudette Singh to take charge.
“I’m not optimistic that he will comply, but I’m optimistic that the Chairwoman will take a position on the matter. She wrote him asking him to produce a report based on the recount results, so that’s there,” Ramkarran said.
Article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution says that GECOM shall “issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or of any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the matters aforesaid.”
Meanwhile, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Executive Member, Dr Frank Anthony expressed the view that GECOM is obligated to use the recount results as the basis of an election declaration, regardless of the ruling handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“Whether the CCJ rules that the Appeals Court had jurisdiction or not, it doesn’t affect the next stage in the process. Because the next stage in the process is for us to go back to GECOM for a proper report with the valid votes that emerged out of the recount to be properly tabulated, and for that report to go to the Commission, and for a declaration to be made,” Dr Frank Anthony said during a virtual interview programme titled “Government in Transition”, on Monday.
Dr Anthony, a former Minister under the PPP/C Administration, was at the time part of a panel discussing the way forward as it relates to resolving the current political impasse in Guyana following the March 2 polls.
In response to concerns that Lowenfield may want to stick to his fraudulent report in which he discarded over 115,000 valid votes and handed a ‘victory’ to the incumbent APNU/AFC coalition, Dr Anthony argued that there is precedent for the Commission making the necessary corrections in such a case and for a declaration to be made by the Commission after those modifications are made.
Inaccurate claims by APNU/AFC
Like Ramkarran, Anthony also dismissed as inaccurate, claims by the APNU/AFC that it is only Lowenfield who can decide on the calculations. He pointed to a video in which Government-aligned Commissioner, Vincent Alexander was heard saying that on one occasion when he (Alexander) felt that “something was wrong” with how the tabulation was done in a previous election, he, as a Commissioner, made the corrections “right there and then”.
Anthony explained that in that scenario, once the corrections were made, the Commission endorsed the report and a declaration was made on this basis. According to him, there is, therefore, a precedent that allows for the Commission to fix any report that is not accurate and make a declaration.
“We anticipate that the next step is to get the proper report and to have that computation of the seats for the National Assembly, so that we can have that declaration and a new Government in place,” the former Minister said.
He put the long wait for a final declaration down to the APNU/AFC’s delaying tactics. Anthony added, however, that the delaying tactics being employed by the APNU/AFC will not work any longer as, in the end, the duly elected Government will have to be sworn in.
“Time is running out, the options that they have are very few, so eventually there would be zero options remaining and we will have to move the process forward. We are coming closer to that end game and it’s just a matter of time before we see this chapter come to a close and we have that declaration,” he noted.
It was only a few days ago that former Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chair, Mia Mottley, expressed concern over the CEO’s latest report in which he sought to present concocted figures in favour of the incumbent APNU/AFC coalition and at the same time discard over 115,000 valid votes.
In a video statement, PM Mottley had asserted that Lowenfield’s numbers cannot vary from those coming out of the National Recount. She had noted that from the inception, Caricom has been clear in consistently calling for every vote to be counted in a fair and transparent manner.
The National Recount, which was conducted under the scrutiny of a special Caricom team, shows the PPP/C in a landslide victory with 15,416 more votes than its main political rival, the APNU/AFC coalition.