A disturbing report emerged yesterday. It is alleged that just as one of the ballot boxes was opened for counting, one of the agents of a political party randomly picked eight serial numbers and objected to them. It is further alleged that none of the numbers were ticked off as having voted.
If this report is true – and it comes from a credible source – it would confirm that these objections are spurious, without merit and intended to frustrate the election process and unnecessarily cast aspersions on the elections. The APNU+AFC has been making these allegations from day one and none has so far been established to be true. The media has looked into some of the allegations and have proven them false.
This report comes just as it is also being reported that the Guyana Elections Commission is writing the Chief Immigration Officer to verify whether migrants who were alleged to have voted were out of the jurisdiction at the time of the elections. This is a strange development from a number of points.
Just how many of these allegations will the Chief Immigration Officer be able to verify. Verifying whether persons were recorded as being in the jurisdiction is a time-consuming exercise. And it will be a waste of the Officer’s time since it is not likely that the allegations will be substantiated.
GECOM will be acting irresponsibly and disrespecting the Chief Immigration Officer if it simply sends such a request to him without first establishing whether a prima facie case exists. You cannot ask public officials to provide information when there has been no effort to establish a prima facie case.
The investigation, which GECOM is about to launch is not catered for under the Order which was published by GECOM to guide the recount process. GECOM is not, under that order, required to investigate anomalies. But it seems as if this latest decision is all part of the game plan of GECOM which has already left the nation frustrated.
Legal minds have argued, correctly, that any challenge to the validity of the elections – whether through fraud of administrative incompetence – should be the subject of an elections petition in the Court. GECOM has the authority to audit its own elections but this sort of audit which it is now undertaking is not contemplated under the Recount Order.
The Chairperson of GECOM had also said, “He who asserts must prove.” It now seems as if GECOM is now undertaking the task for proving the allegations, which the APNU+AFC is making. The burden of proof has now shifted from the accuser. This complicates matters more since GECOM cannot undertake an investigation and then adjudicate on its own investigation.
GECOM is engaged in a fishing exercise. And some may argue it is fishing on behalf of an interested party in the elections, one that has failed to produce any credible evidence to substantiate the fiction of fraud which it has invented.
How is it that GECOM is going to establish that the persons who are alleged to have migrated and voted did in fact vote? Will they reopen each of the ballot boxes to establish whether the person’s name is ticked off on the OLE? It would not be unusual to find cases where a persons’ name is not ticked off and voted. The ticking off is an administrative control, not evidence of voting. The evidence of someone voting is the staining of the finger with indelible ink.
In any event, how will GECOM determine for which candidate the person voted and thus whether any fraud was likely to impact on the results of the elections? How many migrants voting would constitute substantial non-compliance with the election law – one of the tests for determining the validity of any election?
GECOM is taking us down a discredited path. It will now open itself to having to investigate any and all unfounded allegations. This will lead to an unending process, which could end up stalling a declaration.
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