By Shikema Dey
Guyana’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO) yesterday failed to present to the Commission his final elections report using the figures from the National Recount since he needed further ‘clarification’ resulting in the GECOM Chair ordering him to return with the report as directed by 11am today.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair, Ret’d Justice Claudette Singh had on Thursday evening wrote to the CEO with clear instructions that he should present to the Commission, his final report on Friday at 2pm.
Her instructions followed the landmark judgment delivered by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the Jagdeo Ali et al appeal case.
In her July 9 letter to the CEO, the Chair had said “Pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 1:03; you are hereby requested to prepare and submit your report on the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections by 2pm on July 10 using the valid votes counted in the National Recount as per Certificates of Recount generated therefrom.”
She also reminded the CEO that Section 18 of the Election Laws Act 15 of 2000 stipulates that he is subjected to the “direction and control” of the Commission.
On Friday, however, Commissioners from both sides of the political divide and the Chair turned up for the meeting, expecting to be presented with a report but this did not happen. Instead, the CEO presented a letter to the Commission in which he sought ‘clarity’ on her directives.
Lowenfield told the Chair, in his letter, that he reviewed the July 8 judgment of the CCJ and said that, “some clarifications are imperative prior to the preparation and submission of the requested report to safeguard against any action deemed to be unilateral.”
The CEO pointed to paragraphs 41 and 45 of the CCJ’s ruling where they “endorsed the view that GECOM cannot determine credibility, so therefore the Recount Order No. 60 cannot be executed in its entirety.”
As a consequence, he said, a final credible count as conceived by the Commission and as expressed in the Recount Order “cannot be attained.”
Lowenfield told the Chair that her “missive suggests a change in operation procedures” and asked for clear guidance on whether the final report should be based on the ten district declarations being held in abeyance or rather the figures from the National Recount in light of the CCJ’s judgment.
The CCJ ruled that the Court of Appeal (COA) did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case presented by private citizen Eslyn David and consequently, they invalidated Lowenfield’s report dated June 22 where he sought to dump 115,844 valid votes, citing the COA ruling as justification.
After presenting his ‘clarification’ letter to the Commission, the CEO hurriedly exited the GECOM Headquarters with his security in tow. Opposition Commissioner Bibi Shadick followed shortly after and told the media that Lowenfield left because he claimed he received a “death threat”.
Media operatives camped outside the GECOM HQ, saw an ambulance in the compound while Lowenfield was exiting, raising suspicions that he may have fallen ill. However, when the ambulance left empty and Lowenfield with his entourage followed.
She told the press that when the CEO presented his letter, “he said he didn’t understand, he seeking to quote the CCJ judgment and misquoting the judgment.”
A discussion ensued, she explained, and shortly after the Chair provided the clarity sought by the CEO and took the decision to send a further letter reiterating her instructions.
While the Chair was preparing her letter, according to Shadick, was when Lowenfield revealed to the Commission that he received the “death threat” and left. Calls were made to the acting Commander of ‘A’ Division, Senior Superintendent, Paul Azore to inquire whether an official police complaint was lodged by Lowenfield but these went unanswered.
“Full compliance by 11am today”
Shortly after Lowenfield had left, Justice Singh issued another, curt directive to the CEO:
“In response to your request for guidance on which the results of the March 2, 2020 Elections can be declared, you are accordingly advised that my letter dated July 9 stands.”
She then ordered the CEO for the third time to submit his report, today at 11am when the Commission will assemble again to provide Guyana with a declaration of the results of the four-month long electoral process.
“Sanctioning the CEO”
Questions were posed to the Commissioners on whether the Commission can relieve Lowenfield of his statutory functions if he fails to present a report.
To this, Commissioner Vincent Alexander stated that Lowenfield cannot be removed from his post, not even temporarily, to allow someone to perform his functions.
“The Commission cannot substitute somebody else for him unless it’s a course of disciplinary action that he is suspended, off the job and, therefore, since the job has to be done, we substituted somebody else for him,” he explained.
Opposition Commissioner, Sase Gunraj however, noted that the consequences for Lowenfield would be grave should he fails to carry out the directives requested by the GECOM Chair.
Explaining, Gunraj said, “The law dictates that the CEO is a creature of the Commission, he doesn’t act on his own, he is not entitled to act on his own and if he fails to carry out the lawful instructions, obviously that has to be met with consequences and there is a raft of consequences which can flow from that.
If your employer and the employment laws cater for that as are several employment practices, if you fail to carry out what is asked, there are many disciplinary actions that can be taken. What must be borne in mind here is that a nation is waiting for these results.”
The Constitution provides for disciplinary action to be taken against the CEO and other “election officers” attached to the Commission.
Article 161 (a) (1) of the Constitution provides that the “Elections Commission shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of the Secretariat of the Commission, which shall comprise the officers and employees of the Commission, and for the appointment of all the staff to the offices thereof inclusive of all temporary staff, recruited for the purposes of boundary demarcation, registration of persons and elections and shall have the power to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over such staff.”
An “election officer” the Constitution spelt out can be the Chief Elections Officer, the Deputy Chief Elections Officer, a returning officer, a deputy returning officer, an election clerk, a presiding officer, an assistant presiding officer along with a poll clerk and others.
Lowenfield’s vehicle leaving GECOM HQ (R11)
Aug 09, 2020By Zaheer Mohamed It is the dream of every young cricketers to play at the highest level and while it is understood that not all of them will reach the pinnacle of the sport, one would expect that...
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]