GECOM Chair says…
– DCEO on standby if he refuses
By Mikaila Prince
Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (ret’) Claudette Singh, has given her fourth and final chance to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, for him to submit his report on the accurate results of the concluded National Recount. Refusal to complete this task by 02:30PM today will result in his removal from his function as the CEO, following which the Deputy CEO (DCEO) Roxanne Myers will assume her senior’s duties.
In contrast to Saturday last, all GECOM commissioners were present at yet another meeting convened by the elections commission to deliberate on the way forward to announce credible election results. Also present at yesterday’s 10:00AM meeting was the GECOM Chair and the CEO.
As the media stood on the outskirts of GECOM’s Kingston head office, loud chanting could be heard by over 100 supporters of the A Partnership For National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), who were situated some 300m from the GECOM building. These supporters, many of whom were unmasked and hence flouting the COVID-19 restrictions, chanted, “Fraud is fraud!” and “Swear in Granger now!”
Police officers, receiving supervision from the divisional commander on the scene, made numerous efforts to disperse the crowds. However, the supporters stood their ground and refused to leave the streets as they hurled insults at the officers. Some even ended up in a scuffle with the police.
At 12 noon yesterday, opposition Commissioners had related to the press that one of their colleagues, Robeson Benn, had filed a motion to have the CEO dismissed, and that the meeting was adjourned until 14:30hrs. When the meeting reconvened, a meeting in which Lowenfield was “patently silent”, Kaieteur News learnt that the GECOM Chair had made a decision to invalidate the ten March declarations which were being held in abeyance, thereby paving the way for the final declarations to be only based on the results of the national recount. This invalidation, by extension, rendered the reports submitted by the CEO on those March declarations as null and void.
Following the conclusion of the GECOM meeting, Commissioners Vincent Alexander and Sase Gunraj expressed their disappointment with the Chair’s decision.
Alexander, a government-nominated commissioner had said that he was not in agreement with the instructions of the Chair, as he and the other two government-nominated commissioners maintain that massive fraud riddled the results of the national recount, and as a consequence, they cannot be deemed credible. “But those are her instructions” Alexander against the Chair’s decisions, “which are buttressed by the support of three commissioners.”
Gunraj linked his disappointment with the Chair’s decision to the fact that Lowenfield has, on a plethora of occasions, had defied her pellucid instructions as it regarded to what his report should entail.
“It has been thrown back into the hands of the CEO,” Gunraj said, “who has demonstrated over and over again a very recalcitrant attitude and a trend of actually defying specific instructions of the Chair… I don’t believe that her ruling poses any ambiguity. I am hopeful that the Chair will write those instructions to him. ”
Gunraj went on to relate that the Chair, in her ruling to the Commission yesterday, had said that Justice Singh views the role of the CEO not higher than the commission, but to the exclusion of extraneous persons or bodies. The opposition- nominated commissioner noted that as a consequence, the Commission is not subservient to the CEO. Justice Singh took the opportunity to remind that the CEO is answerable to the Commission and as a consequence must answer to the dictates of that body.
The Commission is now expected to reconvene at 14:30hrs today, at which point Lowenfield is anticipated to submit his second final report based on the results of the recount. If Lowenfield, refuses to execute the Chair’s instructions then his subordinate officer, Roxanne Myers will be handed the task.
Notably, Myers, like her superior, has been at the centre of controversy at the elections commission. In March 2019, watchdog body, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), had ruled in a complaint filed by the Opposition asking for an investigation into the hiring practices of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). The ERC had also been asked to pronounce on the appointment of Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), Roxanne Myers.
In released excerpts of the final report by ERC, it was disclosed that former Deputy CEO, Vishnu Persaud, who was one of the candidates applying for the position last year, had scored higher than Myers during the interviewing process.
“By all objective criteria, Mr. Persaud was, on the available evidence, the most qualified candidate for appointment to the position of DCEO. By long established practice, the candidate acquiring the highest score secured the appointment,” the report said. Myers was, however, handed the job instead of Persaud by the former GECOM Chair, Justice (ret’d) James Patterson, who was unilaterally and legally appointed by the President David Granger—as ruled by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The ERC report went on to further highlight that Patterson had voted against hiring Persaud as the DCEO based on his conclusion that he was “shifty” and lied about his qualifications. However, the then Chairman provided no proof to back up his claims.
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