By Mikaila Prince
Co-chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Raphael Trotman, has wrongfully posited that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, cannot be directed by the Chairman and the Commissions of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), nor can he be instructed by any quote of the law—even if the CEO commits a wrongful act.
During an interview on Saturday evening with two of his supporters, Trotman sought to defend the report that was submitted by Lowenfield to the GECOM Chair on Saturday, even though this document was riddled with falsified figures.
The CEO, after seeking clarity from the Chair, ret’d Justice Claudette Singh on precisely what the final figures would be derived from, was ordered to present himself before the seven-member Commission on Saturday, at 11AM with the final report which was expected to contain accurate figures.
The CEO, however, failed to show up to the meeting along with the three government-nominated Commissioners, Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman. As a result of their absence, no quorum could be had. Be that as it may, the CEO did submit his report but with erroneous figures.
These figures, notably, matched the declaration made by the infamous Region Four Returning Officer (RO), Clairmont Mingo, who fraudulently inflated the votes in favour of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), as exposed in a series of extensive and verifiable articles done by Kaieteur News.
In spite of Lowenfield’s report being riddled with inaccurate computations, Trotman said to his supporters, “It appears from my standpoint that his report stands, and I say this based on my own legal training… It would be unheard of for the Commission or Chairman, whether it is four or all of them, or the Chairman herself, for any direction or instruction to be given to the CEO as to what that advice (report) should entail. I don’t see how any section of the Representation of the People Act or any powers that the Commission may have or could overturn or undo that report once it is issued.”
The Attorney-at-Law went on to say that, “Once the CEO’s report is issued based on precedence, then I don’t see how that report can be undone even by the Commission itself.
I know that many people are throwing around Section 18 of the Elections Law Amendment Act. But at the end of the day, the CEO has both a statutory and constitutional duty, and no Commission, or person or quote, for that matter, can direct the CEO to do his job.”
To give credibility to his utterances, Trotman, who is also the de facto Minister of Natural Resources, related that even though ministers have a “general supervisory authority” over the boards and its employees, “none of us have the authority to specifically instruct or direct an officer as to how to conduct their duties or functions.”
It is against this that Trotman maintained that “the Commission, even in the face of a blatant wrong, cannot instruct the CEO as to how to conduct his functions.”
Notably, powers vested to the GECOM Chair by the Constitution state that Justice (ret’d) Singh can order Lowenfield to create another report in which all the votes are tabulated. In fact, reports from the 2011 General and Regional Elections chronicle how former CEO Gocool Boodhoo’s erroneous calculation of votes would have taken one seat from the Alliance For Change (AFC) and given it to the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C). This would have given the PPP/C a 33 seat parliamentary majority had Commissioner Vincent Alexander not discover the miscalculation and brought it to the attention of the Commission.
To correct this wrong, the then GECOM Chair, Dr. Steve Surujballi, had ordered Boodhoo to redo this calculations, which resulted in the seat being correctly awarded to the AFC and the PPP/C being given a minority government with 32 seats.
To compound issues, in February of 2019 Lowenfield had said that the Commission is the only body, which is mandated to instruct him as well as his decisions.
At a press conference in February 2019 at the GECOM Headquarters, Lowenfield had stated that it was the GECOM Commission that is constitutionally mandated to direct the Secretariat, which he controls.
In his explanation that was captured in a video by News Room, Lowenfield stated, “I think I need to remind sometimes, that this agency, this constitutional agency, established constitutionally, (under) Article 161, speaks very clearly to the establishment of the Commission, the Chairman and to the members of that Commission and their responsibility.”
He added that it is the Commission, which is responsible for the efficient conduct of general and regional elections, local government elections and for the conduct of registration in Guyana.
Lowenfield argued that, “The Commission by order instructs the Chief Elections Officer for the conduct of all these subsets; they are contained in the Constitution where the Commission shall direct the Secretariat to so do, so it is not a creation of an attitude on the part of the CEO that he have to be provided with guidance.”
“So,” he added “they direct – move, don’t move, act, don’t act – as is contained in the Constitution.”
The CEO pointed out that, he, being a “student of management” understands fundamentally what is required by the Secretariat in the execution of their duties.
“So sometimes when,” he stated at the press conference, “one hears that the CEO cannot meet with a team at location X or Y, I have not yet, as constitutionally mandated, been provided with the guidance from the Commission, Chairman and Commissioners, so I think we need to understand that from jump street.”
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