GECOM will wait for, abide by, court decisions ꟷ PRO

…even as 2011 precedent exists for GECOM to hand over SOPs

As calls continue to mount for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to fulfill their mandate and carry out the tabulation of votes as quickly as possible, the secretariat have said the matter is out of their hands, but they will wait for, and abide by, whatever decisions are made by the court.

GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh

GECOM’s Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward, in a statement on Wednesday, said the secretariat acknowledge calls for the commission to act. However, the court cases are currently before High Court Judge Franklyn Holder.
“The Guyana Elections Commission has taken note of calls in the public domain by political parties and other stakeholders for the agency to take certain decisions aimed at ensuring the electoral process ends within the shortest possible time.

Chief Elections Officer
Keith Lowenfield

While the anxiety and frustration of the electorate is understandable, the commission is cognizant that the matter is sub-judice, and therefore awaits the outcome of the legal proceedings currently engaging the attention of the court to inform its deliberations and next steps.”
According to the statement, GECOM, as a constitutional agency, must be guided by a legal framework. As such, it must wait for, and comply with, whatever decisions are made by the High Court.
The secretariat admitted in the statement that it might appear as though GECOM is silent, and not acting as it should. However, the secretariat, which is party to the court matter through Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, noted that it currently cannot pronounce on the matter.
According to the GECOM Secretariat, the court case also sets aside or varies “the declaration of the returning officers of the 10 electoral districts, and (prevents them) from substituting or replacing the said declaration of the returning officers until the hearing and determination of the judicial review; the commission cannot pronounce on this matter.”

Under Chairman Dr Steve Surujbally GECOM had handed over the SoPs to the then Opposition parties in 2011 to clear up any doubts

Caretaker President David Granger had signed a Caricom Initiative after he and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had agreed for the regional body to supervise a recount of votes cast at the March 2 General and Regional Elections. However, in the twist of events, one of Granger’s own candidates, Ulita Moore, moved to the High Court, and was granted an injunction by Justice Holder, blocking the recount.

Following this, a further action was brought by PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo, seeking to have Lowenfield present the Statements of Poll for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica). This action is being opposed by GECOM, including Chairperson retired Justice Claudette Singh.
At heart is uncertainty over the discredited results for Region Four, with the PPP, the other parties and the international community condemning the vote count and result as flawed. When it comes to disclosure, one of Jagdeo’s lawyers, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, has informed the media that compelling Lowenfield to produce his SOPs is the only way to resolve the confusion caused by Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo’s declaration. Nandlall had said that with the party’s SOPs having one set of numbers, which differ from Mingo’s numbers, only GECOM’s SOPs can be trusted.
There is in fact precedent for this. Back in 2011, then opposition party A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) had protested for GECOM to hand over the SOPs in its possession following the November 28 elections that year. At the time, it was APNU that was calling for verification of the SOPs.
GECOM in fact provided more than the SOPs. Following a statutory meeting of the commission on December 6, 2011, GECOM sent all the parties contesting those elections the electronic copies of the SOPs for all 2076 polling stations, as well as the documented compilation of the results.
At that time, the GECOM Chairman was Dr. Steve Surujbally.
Since the General and Regional Elections were held over three weeks ago, a winner is yet to be announced. Most of the international observers who scrutinized the tabulation process have pronounced it to have not been credible, and threats of sanctions are hanging in the air if an illegitimate president is sworn in.