Recalcitrant Lowenfield again refuses to deliver elections’ report
…behaviour amounts to “gross dereliction of duty,
insubordination” – Nandlall
Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield was expected to submit his final elections report to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by 14:00h on Friday, but instead the Commission’s Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, received a letter at the proverbial eleventh hour asking for “clarity.”
This is the second time that Lowenfield has defied the Commission’s instruction to submit his final report for the declaration of the results for the March 2 General and Regional Elections. It is now 131 days since Guyanese went to the polls to elect a new Government.
Justice Singh wrote to Lowenfield on Thursday instructing him to
present his report pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 1:03 using the valid votes counted in the National Recount as per Certificates of Recount. That report was submitted at 14:00h on Friday.
However, when that time came on Friday, instead of getting a report with the numbers to declare the elections, the Chair received a letter from Lowenfield in which he sought “clarity.”
In his letter, the CEO said he has reviewed the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling and “some clarifications are imperative prior to preparation and submission of the requested report to safeguard against any action deemed to be unilateral.” He went on to say that the CCJ endorsed the view that GECOM has no responsibility to determine the credibility of the votes, adding that Order 60 of 2020 (the Recount Order) caters for the determination of the credibility of the polls.
In keeping with the ruling, Lowenfield said that the final credible count cannot be ascertained. He further compounded his confusion by citing Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 1:03.
“Of particular relevance are two fact: 1) that the election law envisages that ‘the votes counted, and information furnished’ would be provided by statutory officers and 2) the allocation of seats is premised on the statutory report of the Returning Officers. It is noteworthy that the CCJ clearly stated in paragraph 37 that “the allocation of seats in the National Assembly and the identification of the successful Presidential Candidate is determined on the sole basis of the votes counted and information furnished by Returning Officers under the Representation of the People Act.’ As you are aware the National Recount was not undertaken by Returning Officers,” Lowenfield said in an attempt to discredit the 34-days-long National Recount process.
Moving on with his modus operandi of further attempts to discredit the National Recount, Lowenfield’s ‘clarity’ letter outlined a scenario in which he now claims that the CCJ’s ruling discredits the Recount Order. He said that the CCI’s judgment explicitly states that Order 60 of 2020 is in conflict with the Constitution and that it could not create a new election regime and as such requested that the Chair tell him which results of the March 2 elections could be lawfully declared.
His question of which result he should declare stems from the fact that the CEO prepared the controversial results stemming from the initial count in which Returning Officer for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Clairmont Mingo, inflated the APNU/AFC’s numbers by 19,116 votes, deducting 3689 votes from the PPP/C.
In what can only be considered as a proverbial slap in the Commission’s face, Lowenfield inferred that the Chair is overstepping by instructing him what results to use. However, it can be concluded that the Chair was specific because the fact remains that Lowenfield dumped over 115,000 votes to once again hand the APNU/AFC a fictitious victory.
The Chair addressed Lowenfield’s pleas for clarity in a letter where she indicated that her instructions are crystal and he should have no confusion in utilising the numbers from the National Recount of the ballots.
Meanwhile, former Attorney General and PPP/C Executive, Anil Nandlall said that Lowenfield’s letter instead of a report can be amounted to gross dereliction of duty.
“Lowenfield’s letter constitutes an expression of gross dereliction of duty, insubordination and possibly contempt of court. Lowenfield has been in this process from the beginning. He participated fully in the crafting of the Recount Order – Order 60 of 2020. He executed the recount based upon that order. He tabulated the results based upon that order,” he contended.
Referencing the now nullified Court of Appeal ruling in which the word “valid” was inserted in the Constitution, Nandlall reminded that Lowenfield also prepared a report from the recount citing the “total valid” votes cast. He noted that the CCJ did not leave any room for confusion when it discarded the Appeal Court’s ruling and as such Lowenfield should have acted in accordance with the Chair’s letter.
“For Lowenfield to come and say now that he does not understand that Recount Order which he participated in crafting and executed for two and a half months at the recount centre is absolute hogwash. It’s disrespectful, it is malicious and wicked. For him to say that the CCJ has, on some basis, create some confusion is also another sad and despicable excuse. How is it he was able to understand the Court of Appeal’s decision that was so wrong in law? That was put on hold yet he acted upon it and being unable to understand the CCJ decision. This man is perverse, he is dishonest and must be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Nandlall posited.
This is the second time that the CEO has failed to honour the request of the Commission and submit his final report. One can safely say that Lowenfield seems to be among the “forces” the Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, alluded to when she said there are forces bent on delaying the elections process in Guyana.
Justice Singh had earlier instructed Lowenfield to submit his final report, utilising the numbers from the National Recount, on June 18.
However, June 18 came and Lowenfield did not submit his report. Instead, he sat in his office and awaited the arrival of Court Marshals to serve him with a Notice of Motion filed by APNU/AFC supporter Eslyn David. Following the Court of Appeal ruling in that case, Lowenfield went on to unilaterally and without any authority, invalidate over 115,000 votes.
That case has since been determined by the CCJ, clearing the way for the declaration but Lowenfield continues to stymie the process.
Guyanese and the international community have called on GECOM to declare the results of the elections on the basis of the certified figures emanating from the National Recount. The National Recount, which was conducted under the scrutiny of a special Caribbean Community (Caricom) team, shows the PPP/C in a landslide victory with some 15,416 more votes than its main political rival, the APNU/AFC coalition.