May 07, 2020 News
o GECOM’s audio live stream of no use
o Region one ballot box soaked
o APNU+AFC agents report discrepancies
o Coalition engaged in delaying tactics – PPP
The National Recount of votes kicked off with a slow, late start yesterday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Stakeholders and the media corps were outside of the venue hours before the slated start time of 8:00 am.
However, the entrance of all stakeholders took hours, due to need for police officers and officials of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to check each entrant to the venue for security threats, temperature checks, accreditation, and to ensure they were heeding the COVID-19 safety precautions.
Sanitisation exercises are being conducted at intervals every few hours, even after everyone leaves, Ward told the press yesterday. This is meant to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all involved.
When most of the stakeholders were let into the venue, the Chair, Claudette Singh, made general remarks, then allowed the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield to conduct a briefing.
By the end of the first hour, presidential candidate of The Citizenship Initiative, Rhonda-Ann Lam said that teams had already spread out to their respective stations.
The audio streams of the count are available on the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) Facebook page. But as the count ensued at each of the 10 work stations, the audio-only broadcast was practically inaudible to the listening public, and received very few shares and reactions on Facebook.
GECOM also failed to provide photos of the ballot boxes in the state they were delivered to the work stations, as catered for in the gazetted legal order for the recount, which would have assured the public that the ballot boxes were not tampered with.
Commissioner Vincent Alexander commented on the issue of streaming from inside of the Conference Centre. According to him, concerns were expressed about a media house which volunteered to live stream the recount in its entirety. However, they were only allowed into the Centre to take photographs, but these pictures contained the identity of GECOM workers and were posted on social media.
This, he stressed was one of the key reasons why the recount is not being live streamed, to avoid exposing the workers to a hostile environment. That prohibition, he noted was made explicitly clear prior to the recount.
Speaking to the press yesterday, AFC executive David Patterson said that GECOM had to allow each party to have a representative in the workstations.
Kaieteur News understands that there was a slight delay of the start of the count even then because, according to Patterson and Ward, one party could not locate the keys to unlock certain containers.
But PPP presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali and LJP presidential candidate, Lenox Shuman said that the issue was that the locks were inoperable because they had been on the container for a very long time. Patterson said that, as a result, the chains had to be cut.
Patterson also said that there were about 300 people in the compound, including persons entitled to witness the count, GECOM staff, caterers, security and medical personnel.
PPP executive Anil Nandlall met with reporters early on and hopes the process runs smoothly.
Region one ballot box soaked
There were reports coming out of the centre that the contents of a certain ballot box may be in jeopardy. At midday, Ward confirmed reports that water had seeped into a Region One ballot box.
She said that the box likely collected water over time from rain, due to how it was positioned under a hole in the container it was housed in. GECOM has drained the box and is in the process of trying to dry the contents. It appears to be the only ballot box that had water in it.
‘Guyanese Critic’ refused access after being accredited twice
Mikhail Rodrigues, more popularly known as ‘Guyanese Critic’ yesterday indicated online that he received badges of accreditation for two parties.
He is accredited as a Tabulation Agent for The New Movement (TNM) and Standby for the Liberty & Justice Party (LJP).
The badges were signed by GECOM Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
APNU+AFC frontbencher, Joseph Harmon complained to GECOM after realizing this, and asked the electoral body to revoke his accreditation. GECOM then barred Rodrigues from entering the centre.
APNU+AFC agents report discrepancies
Simona Broomes of APNU+AFC told reporters that she noticed some anomalies “from the outset” as she observed the count of the first box examined at a Station Four, for Region Two. She refused to comment on the nature of the anomalies, but explained that she registered any concerns she had, as the protocols allowed and said “it will go through the channels”. Despite this, Broomes said that the operations are moving smoothly.
Carol Joseph of APNU+AFC said, after Station Nine’s count of its first box, that there were issues with the six-digit numbers being stamped on the ballot twice in several cases. She said her party has found a lot of discrepancies, which tended to cause delays.
Responding to concerns about those delays, Joseph said that people have to have a chance to query things.
The party has said that the PPP/C does not want the recount to be anything more than a numerical count, because it would uncover a lot of discrepancies.
“We are not only saying these things. We have proof; we have the documentation of what we are saying!”
Joseph was observed to have been involved in a heated argument with others in her work station yesterday, indicated by a video circulating online. Due to the video circulating online, Presidential Candidate of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Lenox Shuman said that her behaviour is sufficient grounds to have her removed from the process, and that she should be barred from returning.
Joseph had also gotten into a physical altercation with a member of another party when the second Region Four tabulation was being conducted at GECOM’s Kingston office. She is also the agent who, according to multiple sources, demanded that Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo restart the tabulation at the Hadfield Street Ashmin’s Building weeks ago, which was later found to be unlawful.
Another APNU+AFC Candidate, Ganesh Mahipaul started his address to the press by saying “Clearly, there are problems in these ballot boxes.”
His observation showed a minimal increase of one vote in a count he observed for a PPP stronghold, and he said that this is why it was important for the recount to be done.
Patterson said that the party came prepared to raise questions about any anomalies, and that it has the evidence to back up their concerns.
APNU /AFC claims dead voter
Patterson stated that his party was aware of the name of an individual who had died listed as having voted. According to him, the GECOM
A death certificate was later posted on social media by coalition supporters with the name Emmanuel Williams attached.
On the death certificate, it was claimed that Williams, a 70-year-old, died on June 10, 2019 at the Suddie Hospital of Chronic Kidney Disease. The death certificate was issued on February 2, 2020.
The coalition claimed that Williams was a registered voter at Karawab Primary School, Essequibo in Region 2.
On the voting list, it was allegedly stated “BOX 2001, DISTRICT #2 (REGION 2), DIVISION # – 21123, POLLING STATION – KARAWAB PRIMARY SCHOOL, SERIAL # – 264 NAME – WILLIAMS, EMANUEL.”
GECOM’S PRO Yolanda Ward in her recount of the day’s proceedings, acknowledged that claim. However, she noted that GECOM has not sought the authenticity of the allegation but since it has been brought into the public’s eye, the Commission will be investigating it.
She stated that GECOM has a procedure that addresses the removal of names from the final list of voters.
“A name is on a list, for GECOM, we do not know who is dead, who is alive, because there was no objections or even if there was an objection, there has to be adequate proof that that person is actually dead for us to remove that,” Ward explained.
She stated that without that claim, and the necessary administrative process, a name on a list, GECOM has no control over that particular aspect.
“It is a scrutinized process; party agents are present and such an occurrence should not take place.”
APNU+AFC engaged in delaying tactics – PPP
After the count of the second ballot box was completed for Region Four – Station Nine, APNU + AFC representative Carol Joseph advocated for the conclusion of operations—two hours before the close-off time which was allocated for 7PM. Joseph argued that opening a new ballot box would take them way beyond 7PM and thought it was best for them to conclude the process.
Against this backdrop PPP/C representative Anil Nandlall argued that “These deliberate decisions that are being made are not very encouraging.”
Ward gave a quick rundown of the day’s proceedings at the close.
“There were some administrative challenges that we faced and were brought to our attention from the political parties. As a result, the Commission met briefly to discuss some of these issues and they were able to arrive at some decisions regarding those.”
She raised the issue of use of phones, since several broadcasts were sent out on Facebook during the day.
“All of those persons at the count were informed of this and so the decision of the Commission is that henceforth people will be cautioned to desist from such a practice, and if they are found to do so then they will be escorted from the premises of the Convention Centre. This is being done to preserve the security and safety of the GECOM staffers and the count.”
According to the PRO, GECOM has thus far managed to conduct the recount of 25 ballot boxes.
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