Prosecution to call over 100 witnesses in Mingo’s trial
Attempts to rig elections
The State is expected to call more than 100 witnesses when embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo goes on trial for four charges of misconduct in public office in relation to the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The case is being prosecuted by State Counsel Teriq Mohammed.
Mingo, who is represented by Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, made his first court appearance on August 31, 2020. He was not required to plead to the indictable charges.
However, when the case was called on Friday morning, Prosecutor Mohammed made an application for the charges to be disposed of summarily, thus allowing for Mingo to plead. This now paves the way for the commencement of his trial in the Magistrates Courts.
However, Mingo’s lawyer raised serious objections to this application on the basis that he wanted to know if the Police had intentions to bring any more charges against his client. The Prosecutor could not provide defence counsel with the requested information as Police were yet to complete the case file.
In light of those circumstances, the Prosecutor served some statements on Mingo. Thereafter, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan adjourned the case to December 11, 2020 for the Prosecutor to report on the status of the case file and for the disclosure of additional statements.
The first two charges against Mingo stated that on March 5, 2020 at the Office of the Returning Officer of District Four at High and Hadfield Streets, Georgetown, while being a public officer, he wilfully misconducted himself by declaring a result for District Four (Demerara-Mahaica) without ascertaining the total votes cast in favour of each list in the said District.
The last two charges stated that Mingo committed the same office, this time on March 13, 2020 at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) High and Cowan Streets, Kingston, Georgetown Head Office, when he wilfully misconducted himself by declaring a result for District Four in the Regional Elections of March 2, 2020.
He was ordered to post bail in the sum of $600,000.
Mingo attempted to give the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) 25,000 votes that the coalition did not gain at the elections. He attempted to do so by using spreadsheets and not the Statements of Polls (SoPs) to tabulate the votes for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Guyana’s largest voting district. But by then the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had already gained a huge lead in the other nine regions to compensate for the votes the Party lost in Region Four.
The PPP/C won the 2020 General and Regional Elections by over 15,000 votes. The APNU/AFC Government refused to accept defeat and it was Mingo’s attempts to alter the results of the elections that led to the national recount exercise, which ultimately proved the major differences in the figures being called by the Returning Officer and the actual numbers of votes cast.
The differences were noted by the Head of the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Guyana, Bruce Golding, who had stated that he had never seen such a “transparent effort to alter the results of an election”.
The international community had continuously urged the APNU/AFC to accept defeat at the polls, and had warned that any government sworn in based on non-credible elections results would face serious consequences and sanctions. In fact, the United States began by revoking the visas of Government officials for refusing to hand over power to the PPP/C following the recount of all ballots cast in the elections.
The APNU/AFC had even moved to the court to invalidate the votes tabulated during the very recount exercise it had agreed to and which was supervised by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) . All of its bids failed, with its supporters who instituted the proceedings, ending up having to pay millions of dollars in court costs. The coalition has since filed two election petitions.
Therein, it is asking the court to declare that the elections were null and void. It is also seeking to nullify the declaration of President Dr Irfaan Ali as the winner of the elections. Against this backdrop, the petitioners are seeking an order that there be fresh elections held in Guyana within 90 days or such other reasonable time frame or 180 days of the date of an Order setting aside the elections.
Notably absent from both election petitions are the coalition’s SoPs.