Government-nominated Commissioners with support from Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), retired Justice Claudette Singh on Tuesday renewed the contract of the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield. The contract has been renewed despite the fact that it expires until the end of March 2020.
Speaking with the media following the Commission’s statutory meeting, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Commissioner, Sase Gunraj indicated that the Opposition-nominated Commissioners requested that the vote for the CEO’s contract renewal be taken after elections is held in March 2020. He added that nonetheless, the Commission went ahead and renewed Lowenfield’s contract.
“I asked that the matter be deferred until after elections has been concluded because I believe that the true test of the performance of the CEO would be these elections. The Chair disagreed and they took a decision to renew the contract,” Gunraj stated.
He further indicated that PPP’s Commissioners abstained from the vote as they believe it to be too soon for such a critical decision to be made without a clear assessment of Lowenfield’s performance, which can only be ascertained after the conclusion of General and Regional Elections in March 2020.
“We believe that this vote should have been taken or this decision should have been taken afterwards…after the elections have been concluded because the contract would still have some life at that time,” Gunraj stated.
According to the Commissioner, Lowenfield had given notice that his contract would expire in three months and as per the terms spelt out in his contract, expressed interest in having it renewed.
Gunraj stated that the CEO’s contract has been renewed for another three years.
Meanwhile, Government-nominated Commissioner, Vincent Alexander told the media that the decision to renew Lowenfield’s contract was taken after he submitted a notice, as per contract terms, expressing the desire to renew. He stated that there is no plausible reason why the CEO’s contract renewal should be stymied given the upcoming elections period.
In February, on the heels of GECOM being ordered to start preparations for the holding of General and Regional Elections this year, Lowenfield was hospitalised.
According to reports, he was admitted at the Caribbean Heart Institute located in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s (GPHC) compound.
The CEO’s hospitalisation came at a time when GECOM had been instructed to start preparations for polls which was constitutionally due in March following the passage of a No-Confidence Motion in Parliament.
Prior to his hospitalisation, Lowenfield has been leading the Elections Secretariat at GECOM to ascertain the body’s preparedness to host elections within the constitutional 90-day deadline, which was effected following the December 21, 2018, passage of the No-confidence Motion.
The CEO plays the key leadership role in the secretariat of GECOM, with responsibility for implementing all aspects of its operations, particularly the conduct of elections, and ensuring that results achieved are consistent with the laws of Guyana and the policies determined by the Commission.
The CEO is the Commission’s primary point of contact for the staff of the secretariat, whose activities include the registration of registrants, the distribution of identification cards; the provision of information and guidance on electoral operational matters to community organisations and other stakeholders.
The CEO also represents the Commission’s policies and activities in interactions with stakeholders and other interest groups, including political parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), donor and international agencies, in matters relating directly to the operations of GECOM.
Meanwhile, today, the Commissioners are expected to reconvene their meeting to discuss matters regarding GECOM’s plans to proceed with the House-to-House Registration cross-matching data received from Gemalto as well as to make a determination on how persons who have failed to uplift their identification cards will be treated.
It was reported that GECOM is still awaiting updates from Gemalto on the Claims and Objections cross-matching results which is critical to finalising the Revised List of Electors.