In supporting Lowenfield, Granger supports illegality – Jagdeo
…says Lowenfield subservient to GECOM, ‘not other way around’
…adds that only GECOM empowered to bring finality to elections process
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo came out swinging against caretaker President David Granger for the ill-informed statements he made during a late-night radio appearance with A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) sympathiser Mark Benschop.
Granger, during his third such appearance on Benschop Radio in recent weeks, told listeners that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is bound by the fraudulent report submitted by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield. In fact, he signalled his support for the report which discards over 115,000 (or 25 per cent) of all the ballots cast at the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
“The Commission is bound to accept the report of the Chief Elections Officer…there is no other authority to prepare such a report. He is mandated to prepare such a report, the report will include a tabulation and also the validation in the form of observations,” Granger said during his appearance.
Jagdeo in responding to the former Head of State noted that it was the inconsistency of Granger’s statements and blatant disregard for the facts of the current elections impasse that caused him to respond. He reminded Granger, via a virtual media briefing, that his support for Lowenfield’s recent report is in essence support for an illegality.
The former President reminded that there are no provisions in the Constitution that allow the CEO to determine the credibility of the votes and added that Lowenfield is in fact subservient to the Commission and not the other way round. He urged the President to read and keep abreast with the current affairs since it seems as though his advisory team is performing poorly.
“There seems to be a major confusion in his (Granger’s) mind as to the report that should be produced in accordance with the Recount Order, which says that the Chief Elections Officer must produce a report tabulating the valid votes cast, that is the ten certificates for the ten regions in the recount, and submit this, along with summaries for the ten regions of the observation reports. And then the third stage is that the Commission will discuss this and decide the approach; what to instruct the CEO about what data to use. That is in contrast to the final report, the report that he has to produce after that instruction is given to him,” he reminded.
In an effort to jog Granger’s memory, Jagdeo reiterated that the report emanating from the National Recount of ballots was already presented to the Commission and discussed in accordance with the gazetted recount order. It was after that discussion that GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh wrote to Lowenfield and instructed him to prepare his final elections report with the data from the National Recount.
It was during that meeting that the APNU/AFC-nominated GECOM Commissioner proposed that the elections be annulled owing to allegations of dead and migrated persons voting. However, Justice Singh categorically rejected this proposition and directed the aggrieved parties to the High Court where they can file an elections petition. She reminded that the Commission is only empowered with the conduct of an election and not the nullification of it.
After that meeting, APNU/AFC supporter Eslyn David sought redress in the Court of Appeal under Article 177 (4) of the Constitution and among the orders she sought was the interpretation of “more votes are cast.” The Appeal Court in a 2:1 ruling found that “more votes are cast” should be interpreted as “more valid votes cast”. However, it stated that the determination of valid votes lies solely in the hands of the GECOM.
Following the ruling, Lowenfield prepared and circulated a report to the Commission which reduced the number of valid votes by 25 per cent and showed the winner of the 2020 elections to be APNU/AFC and not the PPP/C as identified by the National Recount.
The recount figures showed that 460,352 valid votes were cast and that the PPP/C secured 233,336 while APNU/AFC got 217,920 votes. However, Lowenfield’s report slashed the PPP/C’s number to 166,343 and awarded 171,825 votes to the APNU/AFC, ultimately reducing the total number of valid votes to 347,509.
How Lowenfield arrived with those numbers is a question yet to be answered. Nevertheless, he has defended his actions, noting that he acted in accordance with the laws. He went as far as saying that he is a constitutional officer, answerable to no one.
Turning his attention to the CEO discarding over 115,000 valid votes, Jagdeo said Granger “never for a single moment stopped to consider the 115,000 people who will lose…their vote simply because Lowenfield will not follow the instructions of the Commission.”
He added that “it definitely does not come from the laws of Guyana to unilaterally invalidate 115,000 odd valid votes on the basis on allegations by APNU.”
The PPP General Secretary further stated that Lowenfield has no authority to invalidate the votes and reminded that he is in fact a statutory officer who was appointed by the constitutional body that is GECOM.
Jagdeo cited several Articles in the Elections Amendment Act as well as the Recount Order which clearly states that the CEO is subject to the direction and control of the Commission at all material times.
Section 18 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act 2000 states: The Chief Election Officer and the Commissioner of Registration shall notwithstanding anything in any written law be subject to the direction and control of the Commission.
In addition, Jagdeo noted that Granger’s radio appearance with a party hack after dodging the independent media for the entirety of his presidency is one that lends credence to the nonsensical utterances of APNU/AFC Campaign Manager Joseph Harmon.
“So, I think the purpose of him coming out last night was to give support to Harmon’s vile rhetoric but in a more polished form…and to lend support to the embattled Lowenfield, who has committed an act of fraud,” Jagdeo said.
During his press briefing, Jagdeo expressed that the courts have no role in determining the winner of an election since the task falls squarely in the hands of GECOM after the tabulation of the valid votes.
He pointed out that throughout the interview, Granger never acknowledged what the entire country knows; that is, Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, was the primary source of fraud that led to the delay in the declaration of the results. There is evidence that Mingo inflated figures in favour of the APNU/AFC coalition by over 19,000 votes and reduced those of the PPP/C by over 3000.
Referencing the current case before the Caribbean Court of Justice, Jagdeo explained that the PPP/C is not challenging the validity of the votes rather they are challenging the Court of Appeal’s ruling on jurisdiction. He explained that the jurisdiction ruling has far-reaching implications on how an election and the election of a President can be challenged.
Foreign powers have called on GECOM to declare the results of the elections on the basis of the certified figures emanating from the National Recount. The National Recount, which was conducted under the scrutiny of a special Caribbean Community (Caricom) team shows the PPP/C in a landslide victory with some 15,416 more votes than its main political rival, the APNU/AFC coalition.