– Commissioners express fears of possible collusion
With three Commissioners who were nominated by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party expressing fears about collusion between the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and political parties, suspicious activities continue to mount.
In a sit-down with this publication, the three Commissioners told about their experience at GECOM. According to PPP-nominated Commissioner Robeson Benn, unhealthy trends are starting to emerge in the elections…pointing towards possible collusion.
“One can only suppose that there is, given what has happened. In the 2015 elections, the returning officer for Region Four couldn’t be found when a recount was required. And the time for a recount passed and the results were declared over and above genuine protests.
“And now there’s another disappearing act by a pivotal agent of the process in the person of the CEO… Of course there were spurious reasons given why he could not be found for eight or more hours at a critical time: He was at his doctor. He was doing an affidavit with his lawyer; and then he was sick or tired, and went home to sleep.
“But we’re in modern times. You can text, you can call, and you have officers who can contact you at a critical time. So, in my view, the make-up of GECOM and the personalities which are there are open to malign influence in respect to the elections. The machinery cannot be trusted with respect to delivering free, fair and transparent elections.”
Commissioner Benn stressed his party’s concerns that Returning Officers continue to refuse to remove persons’ names from the list when requested. This, he noted, is despite the fact that these persons complained of either being tricked into signing the lists, or their signatures were forged.
“We were assured by GECOM Secretariat in the person of CEO Lowenfield that on Wednesday, at 23:59 hours, would be the latest time by which names could be removed as a candidate or backer. And the ways in which persons could be removed from the list was via affidavit taken in by the head, or deputy of the list, or the person or letter.
“On Wednesday problems were occurring whereby affidavits were being taken in, persons were appearing in person and with letters, and the ROs were refusing to accept this information for removal from the list. All three of us then tried to get on to Lowenfield, and he had disappeared. He couldn’t be found.”
This has implications for these very persons who are now trapped against their will in the process. In fact, PPP Commissioner Bibi Shadick revealed that up to a statutory meeting at GECOM on Friday, it was indicated that the commission would not make any moves to facilitate those desirous of having their names removed from lists once the lists are approved.
“It’s only the PPP, it seems, that’s bringing to the fore these instances. The other parties don’t. In fact the AFC said we should have never published (the lists). We sat at the Commission meeting today (Friday) and heard well (that) once approvals are given, you can’t do anything.
“Whoever is that RO, if that RO decides on Friday evening they’re issuing a letter that your list has approved, then anything that happens after that can’t change anything on that list. That’s nonsense. You had until Wednesday midnight to take in stuff. So even though they collected 51 affidavits of people at Whim who went there to (remove names), they have them sitting there, and it’s not making any difference.”
Persons whose names appeared on various voters’ lists for the upcoming Local Government Elections (LGE) but they had no knowledge of how their names got on the lists were given the opportunity to have it corrected before the end of Wednesday, August 26, 2018.
This decision was made at the statutory meeting held at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Tuesday, when all Commissioners were present. However, on Wednesday, when some of these persons turned up to have the issue rectified at the various GECOM facilities in their communities, they were blocked from doing so.
Only Monday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo revealed that there were already several instances of electoral fraud for the 2018 LGE. On Nomination Day, dozens of lists of names and signatures purporting to be backers of candidates were palpably defective because of forgeries.
These lists contained the names of deceased persons, persons who never existed, and persons whose names were placed there without their knowledge and authority or through some fraudulent means.