Govt wants int’l persons above reproach for elections CoI – Jagdeo
…says Lowenfield, Myers must go
It has been five months since the current government took over after a long struggle for democracy to prevail. According to Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, they are currently seeking international persons above reproach to conduct the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the election’s saga.
The Vice President made this announcement during a press conference on Tuesday. Jagdeo noted the importance of ensuring that these persons are above reproach, lest they be accused by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) of partisanship based on the outcome of the COI.
“I know there have been discussions. We’re looking for individuals from abroad, who are above reproach, so that there can’t be any accusation of partisanship. Knowing APNU though, because if they could accuse (Barbados Prime Minister) Mia Mottley and everybody in the world… I suspect if there is an adverse report, they can still do that,” he said.
Nonetheless, Jagdeo explained that the Government is presently engaged in looking at the Representation of the People’s Act, one of Guyana’s legislative acts that governs the conduct of elections.
The Vice President laid out the amendments the government is looking to make to the Act. These changes, he explained, will close the loopholes that were exploited by persons from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to plunge the country into an electoral crisis.
At the same time, Jagdeo noted that the continued presence of Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield and his deputy Roxanne Myers, at GECOM, is untenable. The Vice President pointed out that every external group, as well as local people, know of the part they played in attempted electoral theft. Jagdeo made it clear that it would be in GECOM’s interest to get rid of them in order to inspire confidence in its operations.
“So, for example the Statements of Poll. Before the counts start, when they are received, we want them published in the newspapers, in the gazette and posted online. So even before the count starts, the industrious Guyanese can go, see the SOP’s and they can calculate who won the elections, within the first days.”
“It’s part of the Representation of the People’s Act. But remember, (there are those who) wanted to depart. They didn’t use the law for the recount. So that’s where we’re headed now… but we’ve made it clear, apart from those changes, that with Lowenfield and Roxanne Myers there, you cannot have free and fair elections. This is a red line for us” Jagdeo further explained.
During his inauguration in August 2020, President Dr. Irfaan Ali had made it clear that his Government has an obligation to the nation to ensure that no other generation of Guyanese is subjected to such unlawful behaviour that transpired over the five months when the country was embroiled in a political and electoral impasse.
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, 2020 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. However, he did submit unverified figures that would have given APNU/AFC the win.
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. President Ali has previously said that persons for the COI could come from CARICOM, the Commonwealth or the Organization of American States (OAS).