Lowenfield’s Secretariat creating new rules to delay recount – Gunraj
….as GECOM completes counting three more boxes than previous day
The Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) Secretariat, headed by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield is being accused of not only carrying out the instructions and decisions taken by the Commissioners and Chairperson but instead creating and implementing new rules that are only meant to delay the recount.
The damning allegations were levelled against the Secretariat by opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) GECOM Commissioner, Sase Gunraj, who on Friday at the close of the third day of the National Recount stated that decisions taken by the Commission appear to have been “deliberately miscommunicated to the staff.”
The PPP Commissioner explained that the decisions related to the preparation of the observation report from each of the counting stations as part of the process.
According to Gunraj, on Thursday the Deputy CEO, Roxanne Myers, had requested that the report be shown and read out as part of the Statements of Recount being broadcast live for the tabulation.
He recalled too that on Thursday some controversy had erupted when attempts had been made to include elements of the observations made and documented in the report at the counting stations to be included in the SoRs.
Gunraj explained that the Commission subsequently took the decision to not have the observations presented on the SoRs but rather accompany the document but this did not obtain.
The PPP Commissioner explained that direct instructions were subsequently given to the GECOM staff at the counting stations that the observation reports be included on the face of the SoRs.
He was adamant that this was not reflective of the decision of the Commission, saying “I don’t know why that was communicated to the work stations by the Secretariat.”
According to Gunraj, such action by the Secretariat “was clearly erroneous and it was a clear violation of the decision that we took in relation to that.”
Reaffirming its decision to the Secretariat, according to Gunraj, was the first order of business for the day for the Commissioners at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).
Additionally, the PPP Commissioner lamented that the Commission had to, in fact, sit at a formal meeting to deliberate on what the contents of the observation reports should be.
He noted, for example, that party agents were attempting to introduce death certificates as part of the observation reports to be made.
The Commissioner was adamant the recount process is akin to a second layer of scrutiny since results for the elections run on March 2, 2020, had already been generated and that the exercise being conducted at ACCC is, in fact, only a recount.
The Commissioner suggested that some party agents are, in fact, attempting to inject into the reports, issues that are extraneous to the matter at hand and suggested that the report in question should contain “observations made.”
These, he said, relate to aspects such as the state of the ballot box at the time of their opening for the recount, its contents therein and nothing else.
“Anything else would be considered extraneous” he insisted.
It was reported too that while the GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh has agreed to have the observations such as unverified death certificates and claims of dead votes documented in the report, she made the point “at the end of the day whether or not that is included in the observation report it does not affect the vote count.”
He was adamant that the exercise being conducted is a recount of the ballots in the boxes and that the result of that will form the results of the election.
Speaking to some of the issues that the Commission was called on to sort out as the count proceeded into the third day, Gunraj insisted that they were orchestrated to delay the process.
“They were meant to delay this process to make it as long and cumbersome as possible,” Gunraj noted.
He cited as an example a requirement introduced by the Secretariat where during the counting process, “instead of counting the number of persons that are ticked off on the Official List of Electors in the box they are calling out the serial numbers of every tick.”
Gunraj suggested, “that was taking an inordinately long time.”
He told reporters that the Commission had unanimously agreed that it was a useless exercise “but it was a directive that was passed down this morning in relation to that by the Secretariat.”
According to Gunraj, this did not obtain on previous days. As such, Gunraj questioned, “why is the Secretariat introducing measures to delay the process.”
The Commission nonetheless managed to resume the counting process, completing just three more boxes than the previous day.
GECOM Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Ward at the end of the evening, in providing an update on the day’s activity, reported that for day three of the National Recount, a total of 43 boxes would have been completed—three more than the previous day.
According to Ward, 10 boxes were completed for Regions One and Two while another eleven were completed for Region Three.
As it relates to Region Four, the GECOM PRO told reporters the counting teams managed to count 12 boxes.
This would mean that over the course of the three days, GECOM would have completed counting a total of 108 ballot boxes at an average of 36 per day. At that pace, it would take 70 days or two and a half months to complete the total 2339 ballot boxes.
Additionally, Ward reported 74 SoRs of the 108 boxes for the General Elections result and 63 for the Regional Elections.
She noted that the Commission is mulling whether to increase the tabulation time by starting an hour earlier but a firm decision is still to be taken.
Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Captain Gerry Gouveia had earlier in the day lamented the short space of time allocated for the daily tabulations–between 17:00h and 18:30h—and suggested that this should be extended.