Keith Lowenfield gets 48 hours to create plan for elections recount
…only Caricom re-invited to observe
…proposal laid to have Region Four RO removed
Chief Elections Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Keith Lowenfield has been given 48 hours to come up with a plan of action for a national recount of the March 2, General and Regional Elections.
The decision was taken on Monday when the Commission met to discuss the modalities of the recount, and Lowenfield was given up until Wednesday when GECOM meets again.
Providing an update to members of the media following the hours-long meeting at the Commission’s Headquarters, High Street, Kingston, People’s Progressive Party Commissioner, Sase Gunraj disclosed that the entity has not identified a timeline as yet for the completion of the process, nor its start.
“As I speak to you, we do not have a specific or ballpark commencement date,” he said.
Gunraj noted, however, “I am happy that we are able to move forward to the point that the CEO at least have some instructions that he can utilise to come back to us to get this process underway…I believe that it is long overdue and the closer we get to the commencement of the process the quicker we can start and the quicker we can finish and assuage the anxiety of this nation.”
According to the Commissioner, concerns raised by Lowenfield were addressed by the Commissioners. He said: “we went through every one of the concerns of the CEO and attempted as best as we could to provide as much clarity to him.”
At the close of the meeting, Gunraj told media operatives that the CEO confirmed that his concerns were assuaged and that he can now begin to draft a plan to move forward with.
He explained that it is contemplated that Lowenfield would have come up with the plan by the time the Commission meets at 11:00h on Wednesday.
Speaking to the use of observers in the recount process, the PPP Commissioner said it was agreed in principle that such entities would be represented and that invitations will be sent taking into considerations the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked specifically about the Caribbean Community and its role in the process, if any, Gunraj responded by firstly pointing out that it had always been the intention of the Commission to have Caricom not supervise but observe the process.
He drew reference to the aide-memoire that had been inked between the stakeholders in relation to the Caricom Initiative for a recount and said the word supervised had been loosely used.
Gunraj told media operatives that at the time of the conclusion of the meeting there had not been any correspondence with Caricom but said: “I have no doubt in short order an approach will be made to the Caricom Secretary General with a view of re-engaging that team.”
Removal of Clairmont Mingo
The PPP Commissioner disclosed too that there is a proposal on the table for consideration to have changes made at the level of the Returning Officer, specifically Region Four’s Clairmont Mingo.
He explained that the proposal includes having Mingo removed and replaced in addition to other GECOM employees that are considered to be working against the process.
Gunraj cautioned that the proposal has not been decided on as yet and reminded “that it was only District Four that issues arose in, the other nine districts there were no issues that were reported to us that would warrant the request for removal of those persons.”
Asked about the possibility of having the process televised live in the interest of transparency, Gunraj said while such a decision has not been taken, it is a proposal he intends to lay before the Commission for consideration when it next meets.
Meanwhile, Vincent Alexander, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Commissioner in his interaction with media operatives reported that the discussions centred on “how do we proceed with the recount…we have been dealing with modalities in relation to the recount.”
He divulged that it is the intention of the Commission to have the recount done ballot by ballot and that Statements of Poll (SoPs) would not be used but some other form of reporting mechanism to be developed.
The APNU/AFC Commissioner sought to point out to media operatives that a decision had not been taken over the inclusion or exclusion of ROs, namely Region Four’s Mingo.
On the matter of a Caricom intervention, he said the idea is to have the bloc of nations involved in the process since they can give credibility and validation to the process being set about by GECOM.
He was adamant that it is only a Caricom team that could validate the elections recount and not observers.
“We have decided today that our preference in terms of an external body to give some validation that it’s Caricom…The others were never for validation, the others were observers,” according to Alexander.
He was adamant that “Caricom came into the process in a particular role, that role in a modified form, will be retained, the others were never under consideration for validation purposes; they are observers.”