…APNU/AFC Commissioners walk out of meeting
…no court order granted to prevent submission, another ploy to stall – Commissioner
In what has become a pattern, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield has once again failed to execute the directions of the Guyana Elections Commission and present his final elections report using the numbers from the National Recount.
Lowenfield was expected to submit his final elections report to the Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, using the numbers from the National Recount at 14:00h on Tuesday. However, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) through one of its supporters, in an effort to further stymie the process which shows that they have lost the March 2 General and Regional Elections, filed proceedings in the High Court to block the declaration of the results.
Opposition-nominated Commissioner, Sase Gunraj amounted the APNU/AFC’s stalling tactic as another trick to stall the process.
No injunction or any orders have been granted by the court, preventing Lowenfield from presenting his report but true to his modus operandi, the CEO refused to even tell the Commission if he prepared the report or not.
Gunraj told reporters that he read the filings in the court and as an attorney by profession he can conclude that nothing prevented Lowenfield from presenting the report and the Commission from accepting it.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Gunraj and his colleagues Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn, began inquiring as to whether Lowenfield had prepared his report and was ready to present but this was met with resistance by the APNU/AFC Commissioners. They, according to Gunraj, instructed Lowenfield not to say anything to which he complied.
“This inquiry which was made by members on my side of the Commission was met by at least one member of the Commission saying to the CEO that he doesn’t have to answer to us. Well if he doesn’t have to answer to the Commission then I don’t know who he has to answer to. This was speedily followed by the walkout from the Commission by the other three members (Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman) and when that question was again put to the CEO he refused to answer and he followed by walking out of the meeting as well,” Gunraj noted.
Owing to the walkouts, the meeting was once again adjourned owing to the lack of a quorum. This publication understands that the Commission will meet later today after the hearing in the High Court.
Meanwhile, the APNU/AFC-aligned Commissioners are arguing that the meeting was not properly convened and they would have walked out after notifying the Chair that she has set a precedent of putting aside the Commission’s business once legal actions have been filed.
“The practice of the Chairman has always been that our business is held in abeyance until the determination of that matter. In fact, when the matter has been determined in the court, she always insist that we await the written judgment before we proceed,” Commissioner Corbin stated.
He said that they received a digital copy of the legal action from the Chair shortly after 13:00h and just before the 14:00h meeting they were informed that the Chief Justice had set the hearing for 10:00h today. Corbin claimed that this was sufficient information, in his mind, for the meeting to be cancelled and as such, they would have informed the Chair and subsequently left.
However, this contention was rubbished by Gunraj, who said that the Chair set no such precedence. He reminded that on one instance, the court ordered the halting of the process and the other was adjourned after Alexander, Corbin and Trotman refused to show for the meeting.
He noted that at this critical juncture in Guyana, ie battling a pandemic without a Parliament for over one year along with the election impasse, the state of affairs needs to be addressed. He called on the Commissioners on the other side to stop pussyfooting and get on with the business of the day.
Gunraj also rubbished the APNU/AFC’s position that the CEO should not present his report because of the court proceedings.
“Courts have procedures which if they want something stopped, they grant injunctions. In this case, there is no injunction granted. So obviously there is nothing stopping (the CEO from presenting his report). Even as an officer of the court it does not stop me. I do not hold any greater brief because something was filed. If every single day I want something stopped then I would just file something,” he noted.
Monday marked the fourth time that the Chair has written to Lowenfield, and the third in less than a week, for him to submit his report pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 1:03. Every time he submitted his report, he altered the figures to reflect a win by the incumbent APNU/AFC when in fact the National Recount shows that People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the March 2 polls with 233,336 votes cast in its favour.
APNU/AFC secured 217,920 votes while the smaller parties – A New and United Guyana – 2313; Change Guyana –1953; Liberty and Justice Party – 2657; People’s Republic Party – 889; The Citizenship Initiative – 680; The New Movement – 244; and the United Republican Party – 360.
Lowenfield was expected to submit his final report on Friday but failed to do so after he wrote to the Chair at the eleventh hour asking for clarity on how he should execute his functions. The Chair made it known that she was pellucid in her instructions and that he should prepare his report “using the valid votes counted in the National Recount as per Certificates of Recount generated therefrom.”
However, when he submitted his report, in absentia, on Saturday he utilised the numbers, not from the National Recount but rather those coming from the Returning Officers for the various Electoral Districts. Those numbers included the discredited declarations made for Electoral District Four (Demerara-Mahaica) by embattled RO Clairmont Mingo.
Mingo had inflated the APNU/AFC numbers by over 19,000 while deducting over 3000 votes from the PPP/C.
His report on Saturday showed that APNU/AFC garnered 236,777 votes while the PPP/C secured 229,330 votes. It also revealed the numbers for the smaller parties as follows: ANUG – 2275; CG – 2026; LJP – 2569; PRP – 862; TCI – 680; TNM – 246; and the URP – 353. That showed that a total of 475,118 valid votes were cast. The numbers also showed that the APNU/AFC won the elections and secured 33 seats in the National Assembly while the PPP/C got 31 and the joinder list of ANUG, LJP and TNM secured 1 seat to round off the 65 seats in the House.
The National Recount figures show that 460,352 valid votes were cast and when compared with the numbers presented by Lowenfield then 14,766 votes just made their way into his report. Additionally, he altered the original declarations made by the Returning Officers as well. He deducted a total of 161 votes from the PPP/C and another 263 from the APNU/AFC, ultimately discarding 521 votes based on the results generated from the original declarations. (G2)