Lack of quorum forces adjournment of GECOM meeting
– Tuesday’s meeting was set to debate motion to remove Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo
The debate on the motions tabled by People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) appointed Commissioners to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) had to be postponed on Tuesday, due to a lack of quorum.
The motions were filed to have Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, his Deputy Roxanne Myers, and Returning Officer for Guyana’s largest voting district – Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) – Clairmont Mingo fired.
GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh had written the three parties, asking them to provide, in writing, responses to the motion indicating why they should not be dismissed from their substantive posts. They had until June 15, 2021, to show why they should not be dismissed.
However, the meeting scheduled for Tuesday had to be cancelled after the PPP/C Commissioners showed up but no sign of the APNU/AFC-appointed Commissioners.
The motion was tabled by Commissioners Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Manoj Narayan – all lawyers – to GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh when they met on June 1. Lowenfield, Myers and Mingo are all before the courts for a number of electoral charges for their attempts to sway the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then ruling A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government. The motion to dismiss Lowenfield from his substantive post as CEO was tabled by Gunraj and Shadick and listed 20 grounds on which he should be dismissed.
The Commissioners said that Lowenfield breached his functions, duties, responsibilities and obligations when he neglected to ensure due adherence and compliance with the statutory process outlined in Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act (RoPA), Chapter 1:03 by Mingo, who was under his direct supervision.
Mingo, according to the Commissioners, failed to follow the stipulated process of adding up the Statements of Poll (SoPs) for his District and Lowenfield aided in his noncompliance. Lowenfield is accused of also breaching his functions when he neglected to provide proper and lawful directions, instructions and guidance to the officers and employees of the Secretariat in the performance of their statutory duties during the process of the adding up of the votes recorded in the SoPs for Electoral District Four.
The motion explained that the CEO, in spite of protests from contesting parties other than the APNU/AFC, deliberately chose to neglect the complaints of discrepancies in relation to Mingo’s numbers. He failed to adhere to a court order, issued by acting Chief Justice Roxane George, to prevent him from declaring the results of the election until Section 84 of RoPA has been complied with. Rather, Lowenfield prepared a final report pursuant to Section 99 of RoPA containing all of the unverified votes as declared by Mingo, ultimately declaring the APNU/AFC as the winners of the elections. He also sought to have the GECOM Chair convene a meeting to approve his fraudulent numbers.
Again, in breach of the orders of CJ George, in the case of Holladar v Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo; the Chief Elections Officer; and Guyana Elections Commission (2020-HC-DEM-CIV-FDA-360), Lowenfield failed to have Mingo comply with the statutory process and this resulted in contempt proceedings against both of them. Throughout the process of adding up the votes for each list from the SoPs, the CEO either condoned or encouraged the numerous breaches and violations of Section 84 of RoPA committed by Mingo, and other election officers and staff of the Secretariat or he abdicated and abandoned his functions and duties to take the necessary steps to remedy such breaches and violations.
The motion said that on June 13, in breach of Paragraph 12 of Order 60 of 2020 (the recount order), the CEO submitted a report in which he disregarded the votes cast for each of the list of candidates as established by the recount process and instead produced revised totals of votes cast after he had deducted thousands of votes in favour of the PPP/C list of candidates on grounds of alleged “irregularities and anomalies”.
It reminded that on the June 22, 2020, the Court of Appeal made its orders in the case of Eslyn David v Chief Elections Officer, Civil Appeal No 41 of 2020, including an order that there be a stay of its judgement for a period of three (3) days and in breach and violation of the said order for stay of execution the CEO on June 23, 2020, submitted a second recount report to the Elections Commission. This act was the third instance where the CEO openly acted in defiance of orders made by the Court.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case of Mohamed Irfaan Ali v Eslyn David and others found that in the June 23, 2020 report, the CEO “took it upon himself to invalidate such votes as he considered ought to be invalidated. This second report purported to invalidate well over 100,000 votes that had been previously counted and verified as valid votes within the meaning of the RoPA”.
“It is important to note that in this second report submitted after the recount process, the CEO again purported to declare the results showing that APNU/AFC won the General and Regional Elections. The CCJ in the Eslyn David case ruled that the report of the CEO dated 23rd June, 2020, is invalid and of no effect,” Gunraj and Shadick stated in their motion.
In the case of Myers, the motion was submitted in the names of Shadick and Narayan. They argued that she aided Lowenfield in the Commission of all his infractions and even went out of her way to facilitate a meeting in a GECOM facility by then Foreign Affairs Minister Karen Cummings where she threatened to revoke the accreditation of international observers.
Myers’ order to have the Guyana Police Force remove Commissioner Gunraj and political party representatives from the GECOM Command Centre during the tabulation of the SoPs is also listed as one of the reasons she should be dismissed from her substantive post as DCEO.
The grounds for Mingo’s dismissal surround his tabulation of the SoPs in which he clearly manufactured numbers to reflect a win by the APNU/AFC. It also concerns his conduct and defiance of the court orders mandating that he follow the outlined statutory process to acquire his final tally of the SoPs.