Use recount figures or be removed – GECOM Chair to Lowenfield
…to submit report by 2pm today
Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield has been given a final chance to redeem himself and present his final report on the March 2 General and Regional Elections using the correct figures emanating from to the National Recount of the ballots.
This was communicated by Commissioners on both ends of the politically polarised Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). This decision was arrived at after GECOM’s Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, held a meeting on Monday to discuss the CEO’s conduct following the submission of a clearly fraudulent report on Saturday.
Government-appointed Commissioner, Vincent Alexander and Opposition-nominated Sase Gunraj related that Justice Singh took the decision to have Lowenfield submit his final report no later than 14:00h today. Importantly, she stressed that he is expected to use the figures emanating from the National Recount.
This 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 A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (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.
Following the meeting on Monday at GECOM’s Kingston Headquarters, Gunraj told reporters that during the morning session, Justice Singh listened to a plethora of submissions from the six Commissioners before adjourning the meeting.
Among those submissions was that of Commissioner Robeson Benn where he filed a motion to have Lowenfield’s employment terminated owing to his continued acts of insubordination.
Nevertheless, Gunraj said that the Chair based her decision on the recent judgement of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case of Irfaan Ali et al v Eslyn David et al.
“She referred to reference in there from the genesis of Order 60 (the recount order) the necessity for it, the circumstances under which that order was crafted and the utility and execution of that order by the Commission,” he said.
He related that the Commission’s Chair referred to the findings of the now overturned Court of Appeal ruling where Justices Dawn Gregory and Brassington Reynolds found that Order 60 had altering effects on the Constitution. Additionally, the Chair reportedly reminded Lowenfield that he is subservient to the Commission and not the other way around, as he believes.
Gunraj, an attorney at law, said that the Chair reasoned her decision to utilise the recount figures based on paragraph 24 of the CCJ’s summary ruling where it says that “Unless and until an election court decides otherwise, the votes already counted by the recount process as valid votes are incapable of being declared invalid by any person or authority.”
Both Gunraj and Alexander said that they are disappointed with aspects of the Chair’s decision.
In Gunraj’s case, he expressed his disappointment that Justice Singh did not altogether remove Lowenfield from the process.
“In relation to the ruling of the Chairman I am somewhat disappointed that she did not go the complete nine yards and complete this process but has thrown it back into the hands of the CEO who had demonstrated over and over again a very recalcitrant attitude and a trend of defying instructions, specific instructions of the Commission,” he said.
Justice Singh did signal her intention of utilising Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Meyers if Lowenfield fails to present his report today.
When asked about whether the CEO understands his direction, Gunraj explained that the Chair was crystal clear in her instructions and even the common man understands what Lowenfield has to do. He reminded that all the CEO needs to do is to compile his report using the figures that are generated from the recount exercise as are contained in the certificates of tabulation. He would use those figures to assign parliamentary seats to the contesting parties based on the votes acquired.
Gunraj, like every other person, said he is waiting to see what Lowenfield will do now, given his history of attempting to alter the will of the Guyanese electorate. He added that he has his reservations as it relates to Meyers but will voice those at the appropriate time.
Meanwhile, Alexander said he is altogether disappointed in the posture adopted by Justice Singh because she delivered her decisions in a “Judge-like manner”. He noted that Lowenfield, during the meeting, was silent and only made a brief statement claiming that he was acting in conformity with the law.
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 controversial 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, 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.
That marked the third strike on Lowenfield’s file if one was to chronicle his blatant disregard for Justice Singh and by extension the Commission’s advice. (G2)