Lowenfield, Myers, Mingo sent on leave from GECOM

Electoral fraud charges

…Chairperson to decide on way forward on full removal

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has unanimously decided to send on leave Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield; his deputy, Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo, pending a decision on their future at the electoral body in light of the fraud charges currently against them.

From left: GECOM CEO Keith Lowenfield, DCEO Roxanne Myers and Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo

The decision to send the trio home on paid annual vacation leave was made at a GECOM meeting on Tuesday. It is a decision that had the full agreement of the Chairperson and all six Commissioners – Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Manoj Narayan on the Government side, with Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman on the Opposition’s.
Motions calling for the removal of the trio from GECOM were supposed to be debated on Tuesday. However, Gunraj explained to reporters that when the Commission met, objections were raised by the Opposition Commissioners.
“The meeting this afternoon was intended to debate the three motions which were filed. The three Opposition Commissioners objected to the motions being debated, and, in fact, suggested that the Commission ought not to debate and hear the motion, rather, it should be heard by an independent tribunal.
“Obviously, it was our contention that the Constitution allows the Commission to deal with motions for this sort. In fact we are constitutionally mandated to be the authority to do that. There is no power in us to delegate such hearings,” Gunraj said.
He explained that there was some discourse on the issue. Ultimately, GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh will have to rule on the way forward. In the meantime, however, the three officers were sent on their annual leave.
It was explained that Lowenfield has 42 days annual leave, Myers 120 days, and Mingo 35 days. Gunraj was optimistic that a decision could be made in the soonest possible time. Indeed, a subsequent GECOM release stated that this would be the aim of the Chairperson.
“I am hoping that these matters are determined in short order and that it does not serve to delay the holding of elections or any electoral business,” Gunraj said, a possible reference to the Local Government Elections (LGE) which are expected to be held this year.
Motions for the removal of the three officers were previously tabled by the Government-aligned Commissioners Gunraj, Shadick and Narayan – all lawyers – before the GECOM Chair. 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 motion explained that the CEO, in spite of protests from contesting parties other than the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), deliberately chose to neglect the complaints of discrepancies in relation to Mingo’s numbers.
In the case of Myers, that 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 Dr Karen Cummings who threatened to revoke the accreditation of international observers.
Myers’ purported order to have the Guyana Police Force remove Commissioner Gunraj and political party representatives from the GECOM Command Centre during the tabulation of the Statements of Poll (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 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.
Justice Singh has since written to both Lowenfield and Myers asking them to provide, in writing, responses to the motion indicating why they should not be dismissed from their substantive posts. They have until June 15 to show why they should not be dismissed. (G3)